A short pulse (7 μs FWHM) and high repetition rate (dc-5kHz) cantilever piezovalve for pulsed atomic and molecular beams

Irimia, Daniel; Dobrikov, Dimitar; Kortekaas, Rob; Voet, Han; van den Ende, Daan A.; Groen, Wilhelm A.; Janssen, Maurice H. M.
November 2009
Review of Scientific Instruments;Nov2009, Vol. 80 Issue 11, p113303
Academic Journal
In this paper we report on the design and operation of a novel piezovalve for the production of short pulsed atomic or molecular beams. The high speed valve operates on the principle of a cantilever piezo. The only moving part, besides the cantilever piezo itself, is a very small O-ring that forms the vacuum seal. The valve can operate continuous (dc) and in pulsed mode with the same drive electronics. Pulsed operation has been tested at repetition frequencies up to 5 kHz. The static deflection of the cantilever, as mounted in the valve body, was measured as a function of driving field strength with a confocal microscope. The deflection and high speed dynamical response of the cantilever can be easily changed and optimized for a particular nozzle diameter or repetition rate by a simple adjustment of the free cantilever length. Pulsed molecular beams with a full width at half maximum pulse width as low as 7 μs have been measured at a position 10 cm downstream of the nozzle exit. This represents a gas pulse with a length of only 10 mm making it well matched to for instance experiments using laser beams. Such a short pulse with 6 bar backing pressure behind a 150 μm nozzle releases about 1016 particles/pulse and the beam brightness was estimated to be 4×1022 particles/(s str). The short pulses of the cantilever piezovalve result in a much reduced gas load in the vacuum system. We demonstrate operation of the pulsed valve with skimmer in a single vacuum chamber pumped by a 520 l/s turbomolecular pump maintaining a pressure of 5×10-6 Torr, which is an excellent vacuum to have the strong and cold skimmed molecular beam interact with laser beams only 10 cm downstream of the nozzle to do velocity map slice imaging with a microchannel-plate imaging detector in a single chamber. The piezovalve produces cold and narrow (Δv/v=2%–3%) velocity distributions of molecules seeded in helium or neon at modest backing pressures of only 6 bar. The low gas load of the cantilever valve makes it possible to design very compact single chamber molecular beam machines with high quality cold and intense supersonic beams. The high speed cantilever piezovalve may find broad applicability in experiments where short and strong gas pulses are needed with only modest pumping, the effective use of (expensive) samples, or the production of cold atomic and molecular beams.


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