Thermally activated hopping of two ions trapped in a bistable potential well
With two ions in a spheroidal Paul trap, the harmonic trapping potential turns, by Coulomb repulsion, into a bistable well. Two Ba ions have been conﬁned, laser-cooled, and observed, via their laser-excited resonance scattering, by a spatially resolving photomultiplier, or intensifying CCD camera. A repump laser releases the ions from a metastable state. Well-cooled ions are found localized. When the laser is detuned, the Raman cooling rate and the ions’ temperature vary. A transition from the crystallized state to a toroidal gas takes place. The ions are discriminated when one (i) gets excited into a non-ﬂuorescing metastable state, or (ii) is of another isotopic species. Hopping rates of 1s−1 are found at high thermal excitation. Elsewhere, the rates drop by two orders of magnitude, and vary resonantly with temperature near potential energy/kinetic energy = 15, where the bright ion’s hopping upstream of the laser beam is ﬁve times more likely than downstream. Two discernible ions in a trap represent a microscopic model system for the study of reaction kinetics.