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Quantum-state controlled chemical reactions of ultracold potassium-rubidium molecules

TitleQuantum-state controlled chemical reactions of ultracold potassium-rubidium molecules
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsS. Ospelkaus, K. - K. Ni, D. Wang, M. H. G. de Miranda, B. Neyenhuis, G. Quéméner, P. S. Julienne, J. L. Bohn, D. S. Jin, and J. Ye
Date Publishedfeb

How does a chemical reaction proceed at ultralow temperatures? Can simple quantum mechanical rules such as quantum statistics, single partial-wave scattering, and quantum threshold laws provide a clear understanding of the molecular reactivity under a vanishing collision energy? Starting with an optically trapped near-quantum-degenerate gas of polar 40K87Rb molecules prepared in their absolute ground state, we report experimental evidence for exothermic atom-exchange chemical reactions. When these fermionic molecules were prepared in a single quantum state at a temperature of a few hundred nanokelvin, we observed p-wave-dominated quantum threshold collisions arising from tunneling through an angular momentum barrier followed by a short-range chemical reaction with a probability near unity. When these molecules were prepared in two different internal states or when molecules and atoms were brought together, the reaction rates were enhanced by a factor of 10 to 100 as a result of s-wave scattering, which does not have a centrifugal barrier. The measured rates agree with predicted universal loss rates related to the two-body van der Waals length.