Bad metallic transport in a cold atom Fermi-Hubbard system

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Science  25 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6425, pp. 379-382
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4134

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Simulating transport with cold atoms

Much can be learned about the nature of a solid from how charge and spin propagate through it. Transport experiments can also be performed in quantum simulators such as cold atom systems, in which individual atoms can be imaged using quantum microscopes. Now, two groups have investigated transport in the so-called Fermi-Hubbard model using a two-dimensional optical lattice filled with one fermionic atom per site (see the Perspective by Brantut). Moving away from half-filling to enable charge transport, Brown et al. found that the resistivity had a linear temperature dependence, not unlike that seen in the strange metal phase of cuprate superconductors. In a complementary study on spin transport, Nichols et al. observed spin diffusion driven by superexchange coupling.

Science, this issue p. 379, p. 383; see also p. 344


Strong interactions in many-body quantum systems complicate the interpretation of charge transport in such materials. To shed light on this problem, we study transport in a clean quantum system: ultracold lithium-6 in a two-dimensional optical lattice, a testing ground for strong interaction physics in the Fermi-Hubbard model. We determine the diffusion constant by measuring the relaxation of an imposed density modulation and modeling its decay hydrodynamically. The diffusion constant is converted to a resistivity by using the Nernst-Einstein relation. That resistivity exhibits a linear temperature dependence and shows no evidence of saturation, two characteristic signatures of a bad metal. The techniques we developed in this study may be applied to measurements of other transport quantities, including the optical conductivity and thermopower.

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