Connecting strongly correlated superfluids by a quantum point contact

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Science  18 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6267, pp. 1498-1501
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9584

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Simulating electronic transport with atoms

Two superconductors connected by a bridge made out of nonsuperconducting material form a so-called Josephson junction (see the Perspective by Belzig). Valtolina et al. replaced the superconductors with two reservoirs of a superfluid Fermi gas and connected them by a weak link to allow atoms to move from one side to the other. Then they made one reservoir more populated than the other and studied the ensuing dynamics as a function of interaction strength between the atoms. In a related experiment, Husmann et al. kept the interaction strength at its maximum, but varied the temperature and the properties of the link. As temperature increased, the superfluid disappeared and thermal transport took over.

Science, this issue p. 1498, p. 1505; see also p. 1470


Point contacts provide simple connections between macroscopic particle reservoirs. In electric circuits, strong links between metals, semiconductors, or superconductors have applications for fundamental condensed-matter physics as well as quantum information processing. However, for complex, strongly correlated materials, links have been largely restricted to weak tunnel junctions. We studied resonantly interacting Fermi gases connected by a tunable, ballistic quantum point contact, finding a nonlinear current-bias relation. At low temperature, our observations agree quantitatively with a theoretical model in which the current originates from multiple Andreev reflections. In a wide contact geometry, the competition between superfluidity and thermally activated transport leads to a conductance minimum. Our system offers a controllable platform for the study of mesoscopic devices based on strongly interacting matter.

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