From Cosmology to Cold Atoms: Observation of Sakharov Oscillations in a Quenched Atomic Superfluid

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Science  13 Sep 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6151, pp. 1213-1215
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237557

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Quantum many-systems, such superfluids, are difficult to study in equilibrium, and thus understanding their dynamics poses a particular challenge. When the strength of interactions was suddenly changed in a two-dimensional gas of cesium atoms, Hung et al. (p. 1213, published online 1 August; see the Perspective by Schmiedmayer and Berges) observed oscillations in the time and space domains analogous to the peaks in the spectrum of the cosmic microwave background.


Predicting the dynamics of many-body systems far from equilibrium is a challenging theoretical problem. A long-predicted phenomenon in hydrodynamic nonequilibrium systems is the occurrence of Sakharov oscillations, which manifest in the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background and the large-scale correlations of galaxies. Here, we report the observation of Sakharov oscillations in the density fluctuations of a quenched atomic superfluid through a systematic study in both space and time domains and with tunable interaction strengths. Our work suggests a different approach to the study of nonequilibrium dynamics of quantum many-body systems and the exploration of their analogs in cosmology and astrophysics.

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