3 - Atomic properties  pp. 41-59

Atomic properties

By C. J. Pethick and H. Smith

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



A number of atomic properties play a key role in experiments on cold atomic gases, and we shall discuss them briefly in the present chapter with particular emphasis on alkali atoms. Basic atomic structure is the subject of Sec. 3.1. Two effects exploited to trap and cool atoms are the influence of a magnetic field on atomic energy levels, and the response of an atom to radiation. In Sec. 3.2 we describe the combined influence of the hyperfine interaction and the Zeeman effect on the energy levels of an atom, and in Sec. 3.3 we review the calculation of the atomic polarizability. In Sec. 3.4 we summarize and compare some energy scales.

Atomic structure

The total spin of a Bose particle must be an integer, and therefore a boson made up of fermions must contain an even number of them. Neutral atoms contain equal numbers of electrons and protons, and therefore the statistics that an atom obeys is determined solely by the number of neutrons N: if N is even, the atom is a boson, and if it is odd, a fermion. Since the alkalis have odd atomic number Z, boson alkali atoms have odd mass numbers A. Likewise for atoms with even Z, bosonic isotopes have even A. In Table 3.1 we list N, Z, and the nuclear spin quantum number I for some alkali atoms and hydrogen.