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Abstract

In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the field of quantum many-body physics. Understanding the complex and often unintuitive behavior of systems containing interacting quantum constituents is not only fascinating but also crucial for developing the next generation of quantum technology, including better materials, sensors, and computers. Yet understanding such systems remains a challenge, particularly when considering the dynamics which occur when they are excited far from equilibrium. Ultracold atomic gases provide an ideal system with which to study dynamics by enabling clean, well-controlled experiments at length- and time-scales which allow us to observe the dynamics directly. ,This thesis describes experiments on the many-body dynamics of ultracold, bosonic cesium atoms. Our apparatus epitomizes the versatility of ultracold atoms by providing extensive control over the quantum gas. In particular, we will discuss our use of a digital micromirror device to project arbitrary, dynamic external potentials onto the gas; our development of a powerful new scheme for optically controlling Feshbach resonances to enable spatiotemporal control of the interactions between atoms; and our use of near-resonant shaking lattices to modify the kinetic energy of atoms.,Taking advantage of this flexible apparatus, we have been able to test a longstanding conjecture based on the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, which says that the dynamics of a system crossing a quantum phase transition should obey a universal scaling symmetry of space and time. After accounting for this scaling symmetry, critical dynamics would be essentially independent of the rate at which a system crossed a phase transition. We tested the universal scaling of critical dynamics by using near-resonant shaking to drive Bose-Einstein condensates across an effectively ferromagnetic quantum phase transition. After crossing the phase transition, condensates divide themselves spatially into domains with finite quasimomentum. We measured the growth of these domains over time and the correlation functions describing their spatial distribution by directly reconstructing the quasimomentum distribution. We observed the expected scaling laws across more than an order of magnitude in the crossing rate, aside from which the observed critical dynamics were indeed independent of the crossing rate. These experiments provide strong support for the universal scaling symmetry of space and time and the extension of the Kibble-Zurek mechanism to quantum phase transitions.,We also present the first observation of Bose Fireworks: the sudden emission of many bright, narrow jets of atoms from condensates with oscillating interaction strength. Even though the underlying inelastic s-wave collisions induced by oscillating interactions are isotropic, the collective nature of collisions in the condensate causes the outgoing bosonic atoms to bunch into narrow jets in the horizontal plane. This bunching results from runaway stimulated collisions, which we find can only occur above a threshold oscillation amplitude. The observed atom number in the jets suggests that they are seeded by quantum fluctuations. Moreover, in azimuthal correlation functions we observe forward correlations consistent with theory, which saturate the limit from the uncertainty principle. We also observe partial correlation between counterpropagating jets. Bose Fireworks provide a well-controlled platform for understanding the diverse class of systems in which a coherent source rapidly emits pairs of counterpropagating bosons.

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