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Anomalous Expansion of Attractively Interacting Fermionic Atoms in an Optical Lattice

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Science  26 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5973, pp. 1621-1624
DOI: 10.1126/science.1184565

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Fermion Behavior in an Optical Lattice

Due to their extreme tunability, optical lattices loaded with fermions and bosons are expected to act as quantum simulators, answering complicated many-body physics questions beyond the reach of theory and computation. Some of these many-body states, such as the Mott insulator and the superfluid, have been achieved in bosonic optical lattices by simply changing the characteristic depth of the lattice potential wells. Now, Hackermüller et al. (p. 1621) describe an unusual effect in an optical lattice loaded with fermions: When the strength of the attraction between the fermions is increased adiabatically, instead of contracting, the gas expands in order to preserve entropy.

Abstract

The interplay of thermodynamics and quantum correlations can give rise to counterintuitive phenomena in many-body systems. We report on an isentropic effect in a spin mixture of attractively interacting fermionic atoms in an optical lattice. As we adiabatically increase the attraction between the atoms, we observe that the gas expands instead of contracting. This unexpected behavior demonstrates the crucial role of the lattice potential in the thermodynamics of the fermionic Hubbard model.

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