Transmission Spectra of Rb 87 atoms near an Optical Nanofiber.

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We present measurements of the transmission spectra of 87Rb atoms at 780 nm in the vicinity of a nanofiber. A uniform distribution of fixed atoms around a nanofiber should produce a spectrum that is broadened towards the red due to shifts from the van der Waals potential. If the atoms are free, this also produces an attractive force that accelerates them until they collide with the fiber which depletes the steady-state density of near-surface atoms. It is for this reason that measurements of the van der Waals interaction are sparse. We confirm this by measuring the spectrum cold atoms from a magneto-optical trap around the fiber, revealing a symmetric line shape with nearly the natural linewidth of the transition. When we use an auxiliary 750 nm laser we are able to controllably desorb a steady flux of atoms from the fiber that reside near the surface (less than 50 nm) long enough to feel the van der Walls interaction and produce an asymmetric spectrum. We quantify the spectral asymmetry as a function of 750 nm laser power and find a maximum. Our model, which that takes into account the change in the density distribution, qualitatively explains the observations. In the future this can be used as a tool to more comprehensively study atom-surface interactions.