The recent development of laser cooling and trapping techniques has made possible the controlled realization of dense and cold atomic samples, thus opening the way for spectroscopic investigations in the low and ultra-low temperature regimes not accessible with conventional techniques. In our lab, an apparatus for laser cooling and Bose-Einstein condensation of rubidium atoms is in operation, producing a sample large enough to perform reliable investigations by absorption or emission techniques. Moving from previous photoionization experiments of laser-cooled atoms in a magneto-optical trap irradiated by cw-laser radiation  and stimulated by the interest grown recently on ultra-cold plasma , we have started a series of experiments aimed at investigating the interaction of intense laser pulses with the ultra-cold neutral sample, boty aboeand below the condensation temperature. Radiation from an excimer-pumped dye laser was used at a wavelength close to 594 nm, corresponding to the ionization threshold of rubidium for two photon non-resonant absorption from the ground state, with intensities in the tens of MW/cm^2 range and a pulse duration of 16 ns. Preliminary results, attained through the dynamical analysis (atom number, temperature) of the cold atom sample after the arrival of the laser pulse, suggest the occurrence of different processes, initiated by multi-photon ionization, involving collisions between cold electrons and ultra-cold neutrals, recombination at low temperatures and collective processes in the weak and cold plasma. Interpretation of those results demonstrates that this class of experiments, based on a variety of topics typical of atomic, plasma and statistical physics, can open the way for novel and intriguing investigations of laser-matter interaction. Further experimental developments will include duplication of the laser pulse frequency and one photon ionization of ground state rubidium laser-cooled atoms.  O. Maragò et al., Phys. Rev. A 57 R4110 (1998); E., Arimondo et al., Appl. Surf. Sci. 154-155 527 (2000); F. Fuso et al., Opt. Commun. 173 223 (2000).  T.C. Killian et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 83 4776 (1999); S. Kulin et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 85 318 (2000).
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