Extended Bose-Hubbard models with ultracold magnetic atoms

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Science  08 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6282, pp. 201-205
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac9812

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Making magnetic atoms interact

Two magnets interact with each other through a force that depends on the distance between them and on their mutual orientation. How do these long-range dipolar forces affect the behavior of a system of many magnets? Baier et al. used a gas of erbium atoms, which have a large magnetic moment, to answer this question. The gas—which they “housed” in an optical lattice—underwent a transition from a superfluid to an insulating state, revealing the presence of dipolar interactions through the orientation dependence of various properties.

Science, this issue p. 201


The Hubbard model underlies our understanding of strongly correlated materials. Whereas its standard form only comprises interactions between particles at the same lattice site, extending it to encompass long-range interactions is predicted to profoundly alter the quantum behavior of the system. We realize the extended Bose-Hubbard model for an ultracold gas of strongly magnetic erbium atoms in a three-dimensional optical lattice. Controlling the orientation of the atomic dipoles, we reveal the anisotropic character of the onsite interaction and hopping dynamics and their influence on the superfluid-to-Mott insulator quantum phase transition. Moreover, we observe nearest-neighbor interactions, a genuine consequence of the long-range nature of dipolar interactions. Our results lay the groundwork for future studies of exotic many-body quantum phases.

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