This thesis describes various guiding and deceleration experiments of supersonic beams of paramagnetic atoms using inhomogeneous time-dependent magnetic fields. Inhomogeneous magnetic fields have been used to exert a force on paramagnetic atoms or molecules, which derives from the Zeeman effect. The principle of the newly developed Zeeman decelerator is to produce a moving tridimensional magnetic trap, which moves at the initial velocity of the beam. The control of the time dependence of the magnetic field allows us to control the velocity of the so-called co-moving magnetic trap, thereby affording for a deceleration of a velocity class of the supersonic beam. The co-moving magnetic trap is inferred from a moving magnetic wave, offering a minimal distortion of the trap during its propagation. The transverse properties of the trap are tunable through a transverse quadrupolar magnetic field, which can be adjusted independently of the velocity and acceleration properties of the trap.
Much of this thesis was devoted to the design, development and construction of the experimental setup consisting of a supersonic beam and complex coils to achieve a traveling magnetic wave. Using home-made electronics operating 300A AC currents at frequencies up to 40 kHz, the coils can produce a magnetic wave of amplitude 0.7T, moving at a controllable velocity up to 464m/s. Several proof-of-principle experiments have been carried out using a pulsed, cold beam of metastable atoms, excited in metastable states by an electric discharge during the supersonic expansion. We have studied the guiding properties of the quadrupolar magnetic field alone on two atomic beams (metastable helium and argon) and compared with the theoretical prediction of tridimensional numerical simulations. A supersonic beam of metastable argon atoms has been trapped in a co-moving trap at a constant velocity (464m/s, 400m/s, and 392m/s) using a 28cm-long prototype decelerator. The temperature of the guided beam packet is observed to be 100mK. Finally, Zeeman deceleration experiments have been done on metastable argon beams with an initial velocity of 400m/s, decelerated to various final velocities (370m/s, 365m/s). The experimental results are compared with tridimensional numerical simulations.