Shaping the interaction potential

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Science  15 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6296, pp. 259-260
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6296.259-e

Alkali atoms have been the workhorse of cold-atom research thanks to their favorable spectral properties. Over the past decade, however, some of the alkaline earth elements, such as Sr, have proven their worth and expanded the capabilities of cold atoms as quantum simulators and optical clocks. Gaul et al. add another piece to the toolbox of alkaline earth elements. Using a three-state system, they optically excited some of the atoms in a Sr gas to a highly excited Rydberg state. The procedure resulted in a strong effective interaction that, for some parameters, had a pronounced peak at a finite distance. This unusually shaped potential may enable the exploration of exotic phases.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 243001 (2016).

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