Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Yong P. Chen

Committee Chair

Yong P. Chen

Committee Member 1

David D. Nolte

Committee Member 2

Daniel S. Elliott

Committee Member 3

Sabre Kais


Heteronuclear polar molecules have recently attracted enormous attention owing to their ground state having a large electric dipole moment. The long range anisotropic dipole-dipole interaction in such systems is the basis for a variety of applications including quantum computing, precision measurements, ultracold chemistry and quantum simulations. Heteronuclear bi-alkali molecules, only a small subset of polar molecules, have received special attention mainly because the constituent alkali atoms are easy to laser cool and can be relatively easily associated to form molecules at ultracold temperatures. Our choice, the LiRb molecule, is motivated by the relatively high dipole moment (4.1 Debye) of the LiRb molecule in its rovibronic ground state. In this thesis, we study the LiRb molecule using laser spectroscopy and report, for the first time, the production of ultracold LiRb molecules by photoassociation (PA).

The LiRb molecule is the least studied among all bi-alkali molecules and the first spectroscopic measurements on hot vapor phase LiRb molecules were reported only in 2011. We describe these measurements and their significance in chapter 2, after a brief introduction to the field of ultracold polar molecules in chapter 1. In chapter 3, we discuss our apparatus for simultaneous cooling and trapping of Li and Rb atoms in a dual-species magneto-optical trap (MOT) and report the measurement of interspecies collision-induced losses. In chapter 4, we describe the production of ultracold LiRb molecules in excited electronic states by photoassociation (PA). We report the measurements of the C6 coefficients for the Li (2s 2S1/2) + Rb (5p 2P1/2) and the Li (2s 2S1/2) + Rb (5p 2P3/2) asymptotes. We find a molecule formation rate (PLiRb) as high as 3.5x107 s-1 and a PA rate coefficient (KPA) as high as 1.3x10-10 cm3/s, the highest among heteronuclear bi-alkali molecules. In chapter 5, we discuss results on two-photon PA and we conclude, in chapter 6, with a road roadmap of future experiments for the production and detection of ultracold LiRb molecules in their rovibronic ground state.