Speaker: Heather Lewandowski, JILA (University of Colorado)
The process of breaking one chemical bond and forming another is challenging to understand at a quantum mechanical level. This basic understanding is important to any molecular reaction. However, the complicated quantum nature of these processes is difficult to explore experimentally because full control over all degrees of freedom is required. In particular, controlling interactions between cold molecules using external electric and magnetic fields can elucidate the detailed role of quantum mechanics in molecular collisions. We introduce a versatile platform for investigating atom-molecule interactions at temperatures of 100 mK and demonstrate that an electric field can strongly affect cold atom- molecule collisions. These results show that even when only one of the colliding species is polar, electric fields can have a major effect on the collision dynamics at millikelvin temperatures. These experiments represent a launching pad to understanding and controlling cold chemical reactions.