May 23, 2012
Elusive Quasiparticles Understood
Ultracold quantum gases are an ideal experimental model system to simulate physical phenomena in condensed matter. In these gases, many-body states can be realized under highly controlled conditions and interactions between particles are highly tuneable. A research group led by Wittgenstein awardee Rudolf Grimm and START awardee Florian Schreck have now realized and comprehensively analyzed repulsive polarons for the first time. The scientists from the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Institute for Experimental Physics of the University of Innsbruck are international leaders in this field of research.
Ideal observation platform
In condensed matter these quasiparticles decay very quickly, which makes it nearly impossible to study them. But also in quantum gases the repulsive properties present difficulties: "Polarons can only exist in a metastable state," explains Rudolf Grimm "and their lifetime is crucial for our ability to investigate them at all. We were surprised to find that our polarons showed an almost ten times increased lifetime compared to earlier experiments in similar systems. Our experimental set-up, therefore, provides an ideal platform for a detailed analysis of many-body states that rely on repulsive interactions." As a next step the Innsbruck researchers are going to investigate whether separate domains where only lithium or only potassium atoms accumulate are created in a quantum gas consisting of repulsive particles. "This has been suggested in theoretical models but only now we will are able to investigate it experimentally."
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