Observation of Fermi surface deformation in a dipolar quantum gas

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Science  19 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6203, pp. 1484-1487
DOI: 10.1126/science.1255259

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Aligning a magnetic atomic gas

When a bunch of fermions get together, they obey the Pauli exclusion principle: No two fermions can be in the same quantum state. The fermions populate the available states, starting from those lowest in energy. The boundary between the empty and filled states is called the Fermi surface (FS). For cold gases of fermionic atoms in the lab, the FS is usually spherical. Now, Aikawa et al. observe the FS squishing in a gas of Er atoms, which behave like tiny magnets and align with their magnetic field environment. The squishing reflects the very directional interactions between the Er atoms.

Science, this issue p. 1484


In the presence of isotropic interactions, the Fermi surface of an ultracold Fermi gas is spherical. Introducing anisotropic interactions can deform the Fermi surface, but the effect is subtle and challenging to observe experimentally. Here, we report on the observation of a Fermi surface deformation in a degenerate dipolar Fermi gas of erbium atoms. The deformation is caused by the interplay between strong magnetic dipole-dipole interaction and the Pauli exclusion principle. We demonstrate the many-body nature of the effect and its tunability with the Fermi energy. Our observation provides a basis for future studies on anisotropic many-body phenomena in normal and superfluid phases.

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