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A degenerate Fermi gas of polar molecules

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Science  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6429, pp. 853-856
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau7230

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Coaxing quantumness in a molecular gas

A dilute atomic gas cooled down to very cold temperatures can enter the so-called quantum degenerate regime, where quantum properties of the gas come to the fore. This regime has been achieved for both bosonic and fermionic atoms, but molecules, with their many internal states, present a special challenge. De Marco et al. cooled a bulk gas of fermionic potassium-rubidium molecules to quantum degeneracy (see the Perspective by Zelevinsky). The authors first cooled atomic potassium and rubidium gases separately, then bound them together into potassium-rubidium molecules, and finally brought the molecules down to their ground state. The density profile of the molecular gas revealed the system's quantum nature, which in turn kept the gas stable by suppressing chemical reactions.

Science, this issue p. 853; see also p. 820

Abstract

Experimental realization of a quantum degenerate gas of molecules would provide access to a wide range of phenomena in molecular and quantum sciences. However, the very complexity that makes ultracold molecules so enticing has made reaching degeneracy an outstanding experimental challenge over the past decade. We now report the production of a degenerate Fermi gas of ultracold polar molecules of potassium-rubidium. Through coherent adiabatic association in a deeply degenerate mixture of a rubidium Bose-Einstein condensate and a potassium Fermi gas, we produce molecules at temperatures below 0.3 times the Fermi temperature. We explore the properties of this reactive gas and demonstrate how degeneracy suppresses chemical reactions, making a long-lived degenerate gas of polar molecules a reality.

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