Physics and Astronomy, Department of


Date of this Version

Fall 12-6-2013


M. Pirbhai, OPTICALLY-PUMPED SPIN-EXCHANGE POLARIZED ELECTRON SOURCE, Ph.D. thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2013.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Physics and Astronomy, Under the Supervision of Professor Timothy J. Gay. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Munir Hussein Pirbhai


Polarized electron beams are an indispensable probe of spin-dependent phenomena in fields of atomic and molecular physics, magnetism and biophysics. While their uses have become widespread, the standard source based on negative electron affinity gallium arsenide (GaAs) remains technically complicated. This has hindered progress on many experiments involving spin-polarized electrons, especially those using target gas loads, which tend to adversely affect the performance of GaAs sources. A robust system based on an alternative way to make polarized electron beams has been devised in this study, which builds on previous work done in our lab. It involves spin-exchange collisions between free, unpolarized electrons and oriented rubidium atoms in the presence of a quenching gas.

This system has less stringent vacuum requirements than those of GaAs sources, and is capable of operating in background pressures of ~1mTorr. Beams with ~24% polarization and 4μA of current have been recorded, which is comparable to the performance obtained with the earlier version built in our lab. The present system is however not as unstable as in the previous work, and has the potential to be developed into a “turn-key” source of polarized electron beams. It has also allowed us to undertake a study to find factors which affect the beam polarization in this scheme of producing polarized electrons. Such knowledge will help us to design better optically-pumped spin-exchange polarized electron sources.

Advisor: Timothy J. Gay