We investigate a possible mechanism for the autoionization of ultracold Rydberg gases, based on the resonant coupling of Rydberg pair states to the ionization continuum. Unlike an atomic collision where the wave functions begin to overlap, the mechanism considered here involves only the long-range dipole interaction and is in principle possible in a static system. It is related to the process of intermolecular Coulombic decay (ICD). In addition, we include the interaction-induced motion of the atoms and the effect of multi-particle systems in this work. We find that the probability for this ionization mechanism can be increased in many-particle systems featuring attractive or repulsive van der Waals interactions. However, the rates for ionization through resonant dipole coupling are very low. It is thus unlikely that this process contributes to the autoionization of Rydberg gases in the form presented here, but it may still act as a trigger for secondary ionization processes. As our picture involves only binary interactions, it remains to be investigated if collective effects of an ensemble of atoms can significantly influence the ionization probability. Nevertheless our calculations may serve as a starting point for the investigation of more complex systems, such as the coupling of many pair states proposed in [P.J. Tanner et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 043002 (2008)].
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics