Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Cavagnero


Inelastic collisions between dipolar molecules, assumed to be trapped in a static electric field at cold (> 10−3K) temperatures, are investigated and compared with elastic collisions. For molecules with a Λ-doublet energy-level structure, a dipole moment arises because of the existence of two nearly degenerate states of opposite parity, and the collision of two such dipoles can be solved entirely analytically in the energy range of interest. Cross sections and rate constants are found to satisfy simple, universal formulas. In contrast, for molecules in a Σ electronic ground state, the static electric field induces a dipole moment in one of three rotational sublevels. Collisions between two rotor dipoles are calculated numerically; the results scale simply with molecule mass, rotational constant, dipole moment, and field strength.

It might be expected that any particles interacting only under the influence of the dipole-dipole interaction would show similar behavior; however, the most important and general result of this research is that at cold temperatures inelastic rate constants and cross sections for dipoles depend strongly upon the internal structure of the molecules. The most prominent difference between the Λ-doublet and rotor molecules is variation of the inelastic cross section with applied field strength. For Λ-doublet dipoles, cross sections decrease with increasing field strength. For rotor dipoles, cross sections increase proportionally with the square of field strength. Furthermore, the rate constants of the two types of molecules depend very differently on the angular orientations of the dipoles in the electric field.