Novel binding mechanism for ultra-long range molecules

Bendkowsky, V.
Butscher, B.
Nipper, J.
Shaffer, J. P.
Loew, R.
Pfau, T.
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Molecular bonds can be divided into four primary types: ionic, covalent, van der Waals and hydrogen bonds. At ultralow temperatures a novel binding type emerges paving the way for novel molecules and ultracold chemistry [1,2]. The underlying mechanism for this new type of chemical bond is low-energy electron scattering of Rydberg electrons from polarisable ground state atoms [3]. This quantum scattering process can generate an attractive potential that is able to bind the ground state atom to the Rydberg atom at a well localized position within the Rydberg electron wave function. The resulting giant molecules can have an internuclear separation of several thousand Bohr radii, which places them among the largest known molecules to date. Their binding energies are much smaller than the Kepler frequencies of the Rydberg electrons i.e. the atomic Rydberg electron state is essentially unchanged by the bound ground state atom. Ultracold and dense samples of atoms enable the creation of these molecules via Rydberg excitation. In this paper we present spectroscopic evidence for the vibrational ground and first excited state of a Rubidium dimer Rb(5S)-Rb(nS). We apply a Born-Oppenheimer model to explain the measured binding energies for principal quantum numbers n between 34 and 40 and extract the s-wave scattering length for electron-Rb(5S) scattering in the relevant low energy regime Ekin < 100 meV. We also determine the lifetimes and the polarisabilities of these molecules. P-wave bound states [2], Trimer states [4] as well as bound states for large angular momentum of the Rydberg electron - socalled trilobite molecules [1] - are within reach in the near future and will further refine our conceptual understanding of the chemical bond.
Comment: 15 pages, 4 figures
Quantum Physics