Ionization of Rydberg atoms by blackbody radiation

We have studied ionization of alkali-metal Rydberg atoms by blackbody radiation (BBR). The results of theoretical calculations of ionization rates of Li, Na, K, Rb and Cs Rydberg atoms are presented. The calculations have been performed for nS, nP and nD states for principal quantum numbers n = 8–65 at ambient temperatures of 77, 300 and 600 K. The calculations take into account the contributions of BBR-induced redistribution of population between Rydberg states prior to photoionization and field ionization by extraction electric field pulses. The obtained results show that these phenomena affect both the magnitude of the measured ionization rates and their n dependence. A Cooper minimum for BBR-induced transitions between bound Rydberg states of Li has been found. The calculated ionization rates are compared with our earlier measurements of BBR-induced ionization rates of Na nS and nD Rydberg states with n = 8–20 at 300 K. Good agreement for all states except nS with n >15 is observed. Useful analytical formulae for quick estimates of BBR ionization rates of Rydberg atoms are presented. Application of BBR-induced ionization signal to measurements of collisional ionization rates is demonstrated.

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