Crystallization in Ising quantum magnets

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Science  27 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6229, pp. 1455-1458
DOI: 10.1126/science.1258351

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Atoms behaving in an orderly manner

In physics, interactions between components of a system can cause it to become more orderly in an attempt to minimize energy. Such ordered phases appear, for example, in magnetic systems. Schauss et al. simulated these phenomena using a collection of neutral atoms at low temperatures. By shining laser light on the atoms, the authors brought some of them into a high energy state called the Rydberg state. By carefully varying the experimental parameters, they coaxed these Rydberg atoms into patterns reminiscent of crystal lattices in rod- and disk-shaped atomic samples.

Science, this issue p. 1455


Dominating finite-range interactions in many-body systems can lead to intriguing self-ordered phases of matter. For quantum magnets, Ising models with power-law interactions are among the most elementary systems that support such phases. These models can be implemented by laser coupling ensembles of ultracold atoms to Rydberg states. Here, we report on the experimental preparation of crystalline ground states of such spin systems. We observe a magnetization staircase as a function of the system size and show directly the emergence of crystalline states with vanishing susceptibility. Our results demonstrate the precise control of Rydberg many-body systems and may enable future studies of phase transitions and quantum correlations in interacting quantum magnets.

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