Ultrafast many-body interferometry of impurities coupled to a Fermi sea

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Science  07 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6308, pp. 96-99
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf5134

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Sluggish turmoil in the Fermi sea

The nonequilibrium dynamics of many-body quantum systems are tricky to study experimentally or theoretically. As an experimental setting, dilute atomic gases offer an advantage over electrons in metals. In this environment, the heavier atoms make collective processes that involve the entire Fermi sea occur at the sluggish time scale of microseconds. Cetina et al. studied these dynamics by using a small cloud of 40K atoms that was positioned at the center of a far larger 6Li cloud. Controlling the interactions between K and Li atoms enabled a detailed look into the formation of quasiparticles associated with K “impurity” atoms.

Science, this issue p. 96


The fastest possible collective response of a quantum many-body system is related to its excitations at the highest possible energy. In condensed matter systems, the time scale for such “ultrafast” processes is typically set by the Fermi energy. Taking advantage of fast and precise control of interactions between ultracold atoms, we observed nonequilibrium dynamics of impurities coupled to an atomic Fermi sea. Our interferometric measurements track the nonperturbative quantum evolution of a fermionic many-body system, revealing in real time the formation dynamics of quasi-particles and the quantum interference between attractive and repulsive states throughout the full depth of the Fermi sea. Ultrafast time-domain methods applied to strongly interacting quantum gases enable the study of the dynamics of quantum matter under extreme nonequilibrium conditions.

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