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A theory of gravitational quantum states of ultracold neutrons in waveguides with absorbing/scattering walls is presented. The theory covers recent experiments in which the ultracold neutrons were beamed between a mirror and a rough scatterer/absorber. The analysis is based on a recently developed theory of quantum transport along random rough walls which is modified in order to include leaky (absorbing) interfaces and, more importantly, the low-amplitude high-aperture roughness. The calculations are focused on a regime where the direct transitions into the continuous spectrum above the absorption threshold dominate the depletion of neutrons from the gravitational states and are more efficient than the processes involving the intermediate states. The theoretical results for the neutron count are sensitive to the correlation radius (lateral size) of surface inhomogeneities and to the ratio of the particle energy to the absorption threshold in the weak-roughness limit. The main impediment for observation of the higher gravitational states is the “overhang” of the particle wave functions which can be overcome only by using scatterers with strong roughness. In general, strong roughness with high amplitude is preferable if one wants just to detect the individual gravitational states, while strong-roughness experiments with small amplitude and high aperture are preferable for the quantitative analysis of the data. We also discuss ways to further improve the accuracy of calculations and to optimize the experimental regime.

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© 2006 The American Physical Society