Physics

Flat Condensate

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Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1379
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6139.1379-c

Ultracold gases of atoms, which can be cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero, are a promising model system for the collective phenomena that emerge in the presence of many particles. To keep the atoms together, atomic physicists use “traps,” with the center of the trap being the most densely populated with atoms and the density trailing off toward the edges; this spatial non-uniformity, however, complicates comparison with many-body theories. Gaunt et al. created a nearly uniform trapping potential by using three laser beams (one “tube” and two “sheet” beams) and loaded it with bosonic 87Rb atoms, which they cooled down sufficiently to achieve their condensation into the lowest energy state. Both the condensed atoms and those that continued to populate higher energy levels behaved as one would expect from an ultracold gas in a uniform potential; for example, a signature bimodal distribution of momenta emerged with cooling below the transition temperature, whereas the spatial profile showed little change. It is expected that this technique will enable obtaining benchmark results for many-body theories and can be used to trap fermionic atoms as well.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 200406 (2013).

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