The recent development of a range of techniques for producing cold atoms and molecules at very low translational temperatures T <or = 1 K has provided the opportunity to investigate collisional processes in a new physical regime. We have recently presented a new experimental method to study low-temperature reactive collisions between translationally cold ions and neutral molecules (S. Willitsch et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 2008, 100, 043203). Our technique relies on the combination of a quadrupole-guide velocity selector for the generation of translationally cold neutral molecules with a facility to produce ordered structures of cold ions (Coulomb crystals) by laser cooling in a linear quadrupole ion trap. The strong localisation of the ions in the trap in combination with the high sensitivity of laser-induced-fluorescence detection enabled us to study chemical reactions on the single-particle level, down to temperatures of T approximately 1 K. In the current paper, we present a detailed characterisation of the scope and limitations of this method based on our study of the reaction between laser-cooled Ca+ ions and velocity-selected CH3F molecules. The properties of our cold-neutrals source and the dependence of the measured rate constant on the shape of the Coulomb crystals, trapping and laser-cooling parameters are discussed. An extension of our technique for the study of low-temperature reactions with sympathetically cooled molecular ions (translational temperature T > 10 mK) is presented and first results on the charge-transfer reaction between OCS+ and ND3 are discussed. Finally, perspectives for further developments of our method are explored.
|Title of host publication||Faraday Discuss|
|Number of pages||19|
|Publication status||Published - 2009|