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Atomic clock - optical pumping

  1. Dec 19, 2007 #1
    I am doing some research on atomic clocks. From what I have read, I understand that in Rb atomic clocks you:

    -optically pump a cell of Rb, so that the electrons are all in a single hyperfine state
    -subject the cell to microwaves of appropriate frequency, so that the electrons will be stimulated into the other hyperfine groundstate
    -see how well the microwave frequency worked
    -modify the frequency accordingly and try again

    However, I am unclear whether the optical pumping puts the electrons in the higher F=1 state or the lower F=2 state (and the microwaves then attempt to do the opposite). Can you tell me which is used?
  2. jcsd
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