Theory of spin-exchange optical pumping of [Formula Presented] and [Formula Presented]

S. Appelt, A. Ben Amar Baranga, C. J. Erickson, M. V. Romalis, A. R. Young, W. Happer

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We present a comprehensive theory of nuclear spin polarization of [Formula Presented] and [Formula Presented] gases by spin-exchange collisions with optically pumped alkali-metal vapors. The most important physical processes considered are (1) spin-conserving spin-exchange collisions between like or unlike alkali-metal atoms; (2) spin-destroying collisions of the alkali-metal atoms with each other and with buffer-gas atoms; (3) electron-nuclear spin-exchange collisions between alkali-metal atoms and [Formula Presented] or [Formula Presented] atoms; (4) spin interactions in van der Waals molecules consisting of a Xe atom bound to an alkali-metal atom; (5) optical pumping by laser photons; (6) spatial diffusion. The static magnetic field is assumed to be small enough that the nuclear spin of the alkali-metal atom is well coupled to the electron spin and the total spin is very nearly a good quantum number. Conditions appropriate for the production of large quantities of spin-polarized [Formula Presented] or [Formula Presented] gas are assumed, namely, atmospheres of gas pressure and nearly complete quenching of the optically excited alkali-metal atoms by collisions with [Formula Presented] or [Formula Presented] gas. Some of the more important results of this work are as follows: (1) Most of the pumping and relaxation processes are sudden with respect to the nuclear polarization. Consequently, the steady-state population distribution of alkali-metal atoms is well described by a spin temperature, whether the rate of spin-exchange collisions between alkali-metal atoms is large or small compared to the optical pumping rate or the collisional spin-relaxation rates. (2) The population distributions that characterize the response to sudden changes in the intensity of the pumping light are not described by a spin temperature, except in the limit of very rapid spin exchange. (3) Expressions given for the radio-frequency (rf) resonance linewidths and areas can be used to make reliable estimates of the local spin polarization of the alkali-metal atoms. (4) Diffusion effects for these high-pressure conditions are mainly limited to thin layers at the cell surface and at internal resonant surfaces generated by radio-frequency magnetic fields when the static magnetic field has substantial spatial inhomogeneities. The highly localized effects of diffusion at these surfaces are described with closed-form analytic functions instead of the spatial eigenmode expansions that are appropriate for lower-pressure cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1412-1439
Number of pages28
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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