A 3D printed beam splitter for polar neutral molecules

We describe a beam splitter for polar neutral molecules. An electrostatic hexapole initially confines and guides a supersonic expansion of ammonia, and it then smoothly transforms into two bent quadrupole guides, thus splitting the molecular beam in two correlated fractions. This paves the way towards molecular beam experiments wherein one beam is modified through interactions with, e.g. a laser beam or another molecular beam, while the other one remains unmodified and serves as a reference. Because both beams originate from the same parent beam, such differential experiments can dramatically enhance the sensitivity. The highly complex electrode structure required for the beam splitter would be very difficult to build by traditional means. Instead, we introduce a new method of production: 3D printing of a plastic piece, followed by electroplating. The 3D printed piece can take any desired shape and, since the entire structure can be printed as a single piece, provides inherently precise alignment. Electroplating produces atomically smooth metal surfaces that allow the application of electric potentials. The simple and powerful fabrication method introduced here opens a plethora of new avenues for research, far beyond molecular beams experiments, since 3D printing imposes practically no limitations on possible shapes, and the metal-plating produces chemically robust, conductive construction elements. It has the added advantage of dramatically reduced production cost and time: all components used in the present study were printed within less than 48 hours; electroplating is completed in one day, and the bottle neck of the entire process was the shipping to and from the plating company.

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Physical Review Applied, 7, 4, 044022

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 Record created 2016-12-01, last modified 2020-07-29

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