CHAPTER 4: Long-range Interactions Between Ultracold Atoms and Molecules
Published:06 Dec 2017
M. Lepers and O. Dulieu, in Cold Chemistry: Molecular Scattering and Reactivity Near Absolute Zero, ed. O. Dulieu and A. Osterwalder, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2017, pp. 150-202.
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The term long-range interactions refers to electrostatic and magnetostatic potential energies between atoms and molecules with mutual distances ranging from a few tens to a few hundreds of Bohr radii. The energies involved are much smaller than the usual chemical bond energies. However, they are comparable with the typical kinetic energies of particles in an ultracold gas (T ≪ 1 K), so that the long-range interactions play a central role in its dynamics. The progress of research devoted to ultracold gases sheds a new light on the well-established topic of long-range interactions, because (i) the interacting atoms and molecules can be prepared in a well-defined quantum (electronic, vibrational, rotational, fine or hyperfine), ground or excited level; and (ii) long-range interactions can be tailored at will using external electromagnetic fields. In this chapter, we present the essential concepts and mathematical relations to calculate long-range potential energies. We start by deriving the multipolar expansion of the electrostatic interaction energy between classical charge distributions, both in Cartesian coordinates for pedagogical purpose, and in spherical coordinates for practical use. Then we combine multipolar expansion and quantum perturbation theory, to obtain the general first- and second-order energy corrections, including the well-known van der Waals energy. We consider two central examples in the current context of ultracold gases: (i) a pair of alkali metal atoms and (ii) a pair of alkali metal heteronuclear diatomic molecules in the presence of an electric field. We highlight the key role of the total angular momenta of the interacting particles and of the complex, irrespective of their electronic or nuclear, orbital or spin nature.