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Tilting just right makes atoms tunnel
One of the most fascinating phenomena in the quantum world is the ability of particles to go through an energy barrier — a process called quantum tunneling. Meinert et al. studied the dynamics of quantum tunneling in an optical lattice of strongly interacting atoms. When the lattice was suddenly tilted, the atoms, originally each in their own lattice site, tunneled to non-neighboring sites.
Science, this issue p. 1259
Quantum tunneling is at the heart of many low-temperature phenomena. In strongly correlated lattice systems, tunneling is responsible for inducing effective interactions, and long-range tunneling substantially alters many-body properties in and out of equilibrium. We observe resonantly enhanced long-range quantum tunneling in one-dimensional Mott-insulating Hubbard chains that are suddenly quenched into a tilted configuration. Higher-order tunneling processes over up to five lattice sites are observed as resonances in the number of doubly occupied sites when the tilt per site is tuned to integer fractions of the Mott gap. This forms a basis for a controlled study of many-body dynamics driven by higher-order tunneling and demonstrates that when some degrees of freedom are frozen out, phenomena that are driven by small-amplitude tunneling terms can still be observed.