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Solid-state physics

Ultracold atoms in a “Rydberg-dress”

München, 08/10/2016

Scientists led by Professor Immanuel Bloch have developed a novel technique to let atoms interact over large distances.

From the starting state densely filled with atoms (left), a ring-like structure emerges due to the long range interaction (right). Graphic: MPQ, Quantum Many-Body Systems Division

Many properties of our everyday world can be explained if atoms are thought of as small, solid marbles, which feel each other only if brought in direct contact with each other. The temperature of the air surrounding us, for example, is the result of uncountable, continuously occurring collisions between its constituents. Contrary to this, we also know effects which arise from the interplay between two distant objects. Well-known examples are two magnets which can affect each other also at quite a distance, or the formation of a salt crystal as a regular arrangement of positively charged sodium and negatively charged chlorine ions, which are bound together at large distances by electrical attraction. In the microscopic quantum world, such interactions at a distance are of special interest, as on the one hand they are the origin of foundational, well known phenomena such as the formation of ordered crystals. On the other hand they also promise to allow for experimentally studying novel and up to now unknown states of matter. Moreover, such long-range interacting systems are hard to treat theoretically on a fundamental level, attaching special value to experimental studies. Now, a team of researchers led by Dr. Christian Groß (Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) and Professor Immanuel Bloch, Chair of Quantum Optics at LMU Munich and Director at MPQ, in collaboration with Dr. Thomas Pohl (MPIPKS Dresden) has developed a novel method to let atoms interact over a large distance. The key element thereby is the so called “Rydberg-dressing”, which makes use of a fundamental property of quantum mechanics, namely the fact that a quantum object can be in a superposition of two states at the same time. (Nature Physics 2016)

Press release of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics