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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Strongly correlated ultracold plasma Sadeghi Esfahani, Hossein


Ultracold molecular plasmas represent a new frontier of plasma physics. They offer an easy and accessible laboratory for the study of strongly coupled Coulomb systems. Strong Coulomb coupling can give rise to exotic materials such as Wigner crystals and liquid like plasmas. In this thesis, I present a set of experiments and theoretical models that explore the properties of ultracold plasma in great detail. A supersonic beam of nitric oxide in helium creates a cold ensemble of ground state molecules. Upon two-color excitation, a Rydberg gas of nitric oxide evolves on a time scale of nanoseconds to form an ultracold plasma. The excited volume is imaged using a multichannel plate detector mounted on a movable grid. By moving the detector back and forth, we can observe the expansion dynamics of the plasma and its decay. Selective field ionization captures the relaxation of the Rydberg states to a plasma. We use a very reliable coupled-rate-equation model to understand the decay dynamics and evolution of Rydberg gas to a plasma by accounting for all the major processes that happen during the avalanche process. We find that a plasma evolved from an ultracold Rydberg gas expands very slowly, exhibits long relaxation time, and shows evidence suggesting the development of spatial order.

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