Coherently forming a single molecule in an optical trap thumbnail

Coherently forming a single molecule in an optical trap

Non-Feshbach ultracold molecules

The formation of ultracold molecules has already had a profound impact on many research areas of physics. However, conventional methods of producing such molecules are attainable only for a limited number of systems or they suffer for strong dephasing. He et al. sought to pair atoms, through coupling of their spins, to the two-body relative motion mediated by the inherent polarization gradients in a strongly focused trapping laser. They report a successful assembly of an ultracold 87Rb-85Rb molecule in an optical tweezer and observed coherent, long-lived atom-molecule Rabi oscillations. They further demonstrate the full control of the internal and external degrees of freedom in the atom-molecule system.

Science, this issue p. 331


Ultracold single molecules have wide-ranging potential applications, such as ultracold chemistry, precision measurements, quantum simulation, and quantum computation. However, given the difficulty of achieving full control of a complex atom-molecule system, the coherent formation of single molecules remains a challenge. Here, we report an alternative route to coherently bind two atoms into a weakly bound molecule at megahertz levels by coupling atomic spins to their two-body relative motion in a strongly focused laser with inherent polarization gradients. The coherent nature is demonstrated by long-lived atom-molecule Rabi oscillations. We further manipulate the motional levels of the molecules and measure the binding energy precisely. This work opens the door to full control of all degrees of freedom in atom-molecule systems.

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