Physics

Seeing single fermions in optical lattices

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Science  26 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6242, pp. 1441
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6242.1441-e

Peeking directly into quantum matter as it undergoes phase transitions at low temperature has long been a goal of condensed-matter physicists. This intimate view was made possible by atomic physicists, who visualized individual atoms of 87Rb in optical analogs of solid-state systems: optical lattices. But the relevant particle in solid-state systems is an electron—a fermion—whereas an atom of 87Rb is a boson. Visualizing single fermionic atoms in optical lattices presented considerable technical challenges; now, Cheuk et al., Parsons et al., and Haller et al. have achieved this goal using two different atomic species (fermionic 40K and 6Li) and two different cooling techniques. It is expected that these works will enable insight into the many-body behavior of fermions.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 193001; 213002 (2015); arXiv:1503.02005.

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