Arthur Christianen, Martin W. Zwierlein, Gerrit C. Groenenboom, Tijs Karman
The lifetime of nonreactive ultracold bialkali gases was conjectured to be limited by sticky collisions amplifying three-body loss. We show that the sticking times were previously overestimated and do not support this hypothesis. We find that electronic excitation of NaK+NaK collision complexes by the trapping laser leads to the experimentally observed two-body loss. We calculate the excitation rate with a quasiclassical, statistical model employing ab initio potentials and transition dipole moments. Using longer laser wavelengths or repulsive box potentials may suppress the losses.