Our research on strongly interacting Fermi gases takes place in three laboratories:



Fermionic Superfluids


Fermionic Dipolar Molecules


Fermi Gas Microscope


BEC1 studies strongly interacting fermionic superfluids of lithium-6. Interactions between atoms can be tuned at will with the help of Feshbach resonances. This allows to study the crossover from a Bose-Einstein condensate of tightly bound Li2 molecules to a Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer superfluid of long-range Cooper pairs. We are currently studying topological excitations in these superfluids such as solitons and vortices, which should carry Andreev bound states at their core. In the presence of spin imbalance, solitons should fill in with excess fermions and become stable, representing one limit of the long-sought Fulde-Ferrell-Larkin-Ovchinnikov state.

Fermi1 uses a mixture of ultracold bosonic sodium and fermionic potassium atoms to form quantum degenerate NaK molecules. In their ground state, these molecules are chemically stable and possess a large electric dipole moment. A degenerate Fermi gas of molecules with strong dipolar interactions would realize novel states of matter, such as topological superfluids, quantum crystals or supersolids. Strongly interacting dipolar molecules trapped in optical lattices should realize quantum magnetism at readily accessible temperatures. We have recently successfully created a Fermi gas of chemically stable ultracold molecules and find a long lifetime of several seconds, a great starting point for future studies.

In Fermi2, fermionic atoms are trapped in a single two-dimensional plane of a 3D optical lattice. Fermions on each lattice site can be imaged simultaneously with single-atom resolution, allowing quantum simulation of lattice fermion models with site-resolved readout. The experiment is designed to realize the Fermi Hubbard model, believed to hold the key to our understanding of high-temperature superconductivity, but also topological states of fermionic matter, whose edge states should be directly detectable.

Recent studies:


Homogeneous Atomic Fermi Gases


Biswaroop Mukherjee, Zhenjie Yan, Parth B. Patel, Zoran Hadzibabic, Tarik Yefsah, Julian Struck, Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 123401 (2017), arXiv:1610.10100

We report on the creation of homogeneous Fermi gases of ultracold atoms in a uniform potential. In the momentum distribution of a spin-polarized gas, we observe the emergence of the Fermi surface and the saturated occupation of one particle per momentum state. This directly confirms Pauli blocking in momentum space. For the spin-balanced unitary Fermi gas, we observe spatially uniform pair condensates. For thermodynamic measurements, we introduce a hybrid potential that is harmonic in one dimension and uniform in the other two. The spatially resolved compressibility reveals the superfluid transition in a spin-balanced Fermi gas, saturation in a fully polarized Fermi gas, and strong attraction in the polaronic regime of a partially polarized Fermi gas.


Two and Three-body Contacts in the Unitary Bose Gas


Richard J. Fletcher, Raphael Lopes, Jay Man, Nir Navon, Robert P. Smith, Martin W. Zwierlein, Zoran Hadzibabic

Science 355, 377-380 (2017), arXiv:1608.04377

In many-body systems governed by pairwise contact interactions, a wide range of observables is linked by a single parameter, the two-body contact, which quantifies two-particle correlations. This profound insight has transformed our understanding of strongly interacting Fermi gases. Here, using Ramsey interferometry, we study coherent evolution of the resonantly interacting Bose gas, and show that it cannot be explained by only pairwise correlations. Our experiments reveal the crucial role of three-body correlations arising from Efimov physics, and provide a direct measurement of the associated three-body contact.


Second-Scale Nuclear Spin Coherence Time of Ultracold NaK Molecules


Jee Woo Park, Zoe Z. Yan, Huanqian Loh, Sebastian A. Will, Martin W. Zwierlein

preprint arXiv:1606.04184

Coherence, the stability of the relative phase between quantum states, lies at the heart of quantum mechanics. Applications such as precision measurement, interferometry, and quantum computation are enabled by physical systems that have quantum states with robust coherence. With the creation of molecular ensembles at sub-μK temperatures, diatomic molecules have become a novel system under full quantum control. Here, we report on the observation of stable coherence between a pair of nuclear spin states of ultracold fermionic NaK molecules in the singlet rovibrational ground state. Employing microwave fields, we perform Ramsey spectroscopy and observe coherence times on the scale of one second. This work opens the door for the exploration of single molecules as a versatile quantum memory. Switchable long-range interactions between dipolar molecules can further enable two-qubit gates, allowing quantum storage and processing in the same physical system. Within the observed coherence time, 104 one- and two-qubit gate operations will be feasible.


Spatial Charge and Spin Correlations in the 2D Fermi-Hubbard Model


Lawrence W. Cheuk, Matthew A. Nichols, Katherine R. Lawrence, Melih Okan, Hao Zhang, Ehsan Khatami, Nandini Trivedi, Thereza Paiva, Marcos Rigol, Martin W. Zwierlein

Science 353, 1260-1264 (2016), arXiv:1606.04089

Strong electron correlations lie at the origin of transformative phenomena such as colossal magneto-resistance and high-temperature superconductivity. Already near room temperature, doped copper oxide materials display remarkable features such as a pseudo-gap and a "strange metal" phase with unusual transport properties. The essence of this physics is believed to be captured by the Fermi-Hubbard model of repulsively interacting, itinerant fermions on a lattice. Here we report on the site-resolved observation of charge and spin correlations in the two-dimensional (2D) Fermi-Hubbard model realized with ultracold atoms. Antiferromagnetic spin correlations are maximal at half-filling and weaken monotonically upon doping. Correlations between singly charged sites are negative at large doping, revealing the Pauli and correlation hole\textemdash a suppressed probability of finding two fermions near each other. However, as the doping is reduced below a critical value, correlations between such local magnetic moments become positive, signaling strong bunching of doublons and holes. Excellent agreement with numerical linked-cluster expansion (NLCE) and determinantal quantum Monte Carlo (DQMC) calculations is found. Positive non-local moment correlations directly imply potential energy fluctuations due to doublon-hole pairs, which should play an important role for transport in the Fermi-Hubbard model.




Coherent Microwave Control of Ultracold NaK Molecules


Sebastian A. Will, Jee Woo Park, Zoe Z. Yan, Huanqian Loh, Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 225306 (2016), arXiv:1604.00120

We demonstrate coherent microwave control of rotational and hyperfine states of trapped, ultracold, and chemically stable NaK molecules. Starting with all molecules in the absolute rovibrational and hyperfine ground state, we study rotational transitions in combined magnetic and electric fields and explain the rich hyperfine structure. Following the transfer of the entire molecular ensemble into a single hyperfine level of the first rotationally excited state, J=1, we observe collisional lifetimes of more than 3s, comparable to those in the rovibrational ground state, J=0. Long-lived ensembles and full quantum state control are prerequisites for the use of ultracold molecules in quantum simulation, precision measurements and quantum information processing.


Observation of 2D Fermionic Mott Insulators


Lawrence W. Cheuk, Matthew A. Nichols, Katherine R. Lawrence, Melih Okan, Hao Zhang, Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 235301 (2016); arXiv:1604.00096 (2016)

We report on the site-resolved observation of characteristic states of the two-dimensional repulsive Fermi-Hubbard model, using ultracold 40K atoms in an optical lattice. By varying the tunneling, interaction strength, and external confinement, we realize metallic, Mott-insulating, and band-insulating states. We directly measure the local moment, which quantifies the degree of on-site magnetization, as a function of temperature and chemical potential. Entropies per particle as low as 0.99(6)kB indicate that nearest-neighbor antiferromagnetic correlations should be detectable using spin-sensitive imaging.


Cascade of Solitonic Excitations in a Superfluid Fermi Gas


Mark J.-H. Ku, Biswaroop Mukherjee, Tarik Yefsah, and Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 045304 (2016), arXiv:1507.01047

We follow the time evolution of a superfluid Fermi gas of resonantly interacting 6Li atoms after a phase imprint. Via tomographic imaging, we observe the formation of a planar dark soliton, its subsequent snaking, and its decay into a vortex ring, which in turn breaks to finally leave behind a single solitonic vortex. In intermediate stages we find evidence for an exotic structure resembling the Φ-soliton, a combination of a vortex ring and a vortex line. Direct imaging of the nodal surface reveals its undulation dynamics and its decay via the puncture of the initial soliton plane. The observed evolution of the nodal surface represents dynamics beyond superfluid hydrodynamics, calling for a microscopic description of unitary fermionic superfluids out of equilibrium.


Ultracold Dipolar Gas of Fermionic NaK Molecules


Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Jee Woo Park, Sebastian A. Will, and Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 205302 (2015)


Physics Synopsis

MIT News

Coverage in Scientific American, Pro-Physik.de, Huffington Post, Live Science, and others

We report on the creation of an ultracold (500 Nanokelvin) dipolar gas of fermionic NaK molecules in their absolute rovibrational and hyperfine ground state. The molecular gas is formed from a mixture of ultracold gases of sodium and potassium atoms, which are first associated into a very loosely bound (Feshbach) molecule. These highly vibrationally excited molecules are then coherently transferred into the absolute rovibrational ground state. The two-photon process bridges an energy gap worth 7500 Kelvin, without the injection of heat. The nearly quantum degenerate molecular gas displays a lifetime longer than 2.5 seconds, highlighting NaK's stability against two-body chemical reactions. A homogeneous electric field is applied to induce a dipole moment of up to 0.8 Debye. With these advances, the exploration of many-body physics with strongly dipolar Fermi gases of NaK molecules is within experimental reach.


Two-Photon Pathway to Ultracold Ground State Molecules


Jee Woo Park, Sebastian A. Will, and Martin W. Zwierlein

New J. Phys. 17, 075016 (2015)


Focus on New Frontiers of Cold Molecules Research


In the quest for the creation of a Fermi gas of chemically stable, ultracold molecules, we were able to show that NaK is a highly promising candidate, featuring chemical stability, broad Feshbach resonances at easily accessible magnetic fields, a strong permanent electric dipole moment of 2.7 Debye.

However, to convert predominantly triplet Feshbach molecules into the singlet rovibrational ground state via a two-photon process requires an intermediate state of mixed singlet-triplet character. Spin-orbit coupling in NaK is weak, and efficient two-photon coupling therefore requires an accidental degeneracy between singlet and triplet excited states. We have identified two such possible "bridges" for two-photon transfer of NaK, and demonstrated coherent two-photon coupling between the Feshbach and the absolute rovibrational ground state. The binding energy of NaK is measured to be 5212.0447(1) cm-1, a thousand-fold improvement in accuracy compared to previous determinations.



March 9th, 2015: A Quantum Gas Microscope for Fermionic Atoms


Lawrence W. Cheuk, Matthew A. Nichols, Melih Okan, Thomas Gersdorf, Vinay V. Ramasesh, Waseem S. Bakr, Thomas Lompe, Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 114, 193001 (2015)

Selected as one of the Physics Breakthroughs in 2015 by IOP's Physics World

Physics Synopsis

MIT News

Coverage in Physics World, Optics & Photonics, Tech Times,

Laser Focus World, and others

We realize a quantum-gas microscope for fermionic atoms trapped in an optical lattice, which allows one to probe strongly correlated fermions at the single-atom level. We combine 3D Raman sideband cooling with high-resolution optics to simultaneously cool and image individual atoms with single-lattice-site resolution at a detection fidelity above 95%. The imaging process leaves the atoms predominantly in the 3D motional ground state of their respective lattice sites, inviting the implementation of a Maxwell’s demon to assemble low-entropy many-body states. Single-site-resolved imaging of fermions enables the direct observation of magnetic order, time-resolved measurements of the spread of particle correlations, and the detection of many-fermion entanglement.


Motion of a Solitonic Vortex in the BEC-BCS Crossover


Mark J.H. Ku, Wenjie Ji, Biswaroop Mukherjee, Elmer Guardado-Sanchez, Lawrence W. Cheuk, Tarik Yefsah, Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 065301

preprint arXiv:1402.7052

Physics Viewpoint "Solitons with a Twist" by Frederic Chevy

We observe a long-lived solitary wave in a superfluid Fermi gas of Li atoms after phase-imprinting. Tomographic imaging reveals the excitation to be a solitonic vortex, oriented transverse to the long axis of the cigar-shaped atom cloud. The precessional motion of the vortex is directly observed, and its period is measured as a function of the chemical potential in the BEC-BCS crossover. The long period and the correspondingly large ratio of the inertial to the bare mass of the vortex are in good agreement with estimates based on superfluid hydrodynamics that we derive here using the known equation of state in the BEC-BCS crossover.


Heavy Solitons in a Fermionic Superfluid


Tarik Yefsah, Ariel T. Sommer, Mark J.H. Ku, Lawrence W. Cheuk, Wenjie Ji, Waseem S. Bakr, and Martin W. Zwierlein


Nature 499, 426-430 (2013)

arXiv:1302.4736 (2013)

Topological excitations are found throughout nature, in proteins and DNA, as dislocations in crystals, as vortices and solitons in superfluids and superconductors, and generally in the wake of symmetry-breaking phase transitions. In fermionic systems, topological defects may provide bound states for fermions that often play a crucial role for the system's transport properties. Famous examples are Andreev bound states inside vortex cores, fractionally charged solitons in relativistic quantum field theory, and the spinless charged solitons responsible for the high conductivity of polymers. However, the free motion of topological defects in electronic systems is hindered by pinning at impurities. Here we create long-lived solitons in a strongly interacting fermionic superfluid by imprinting a phase step into the superfluid wavefunction, and directly observe their oscillatory motion in the trapped superfluid. As the interactions are tuned from the regime of Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) of tightly bound molecules towards the Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) limit of long-range Cooper pairs, the effective mass of the solitons increases dramatically to more than 200 times their bare mass. This signals their filling with Andreev states and strong quantum fluctuations. For the unitary Fermi gas, the mass enhancement is more than fifty times larger than expectations from mean-field Bogoliubov-de Gennes theory. Our work paves the way towards the experimental study and control of Andreev bound states in ultracold atomic gases. In the presence of spin imbalance, the solitons created here represent one limit of the long sought-after Fulde-Ferrell-Larkin-Ovchinnikov (FFLO) state of mobile Cooper pairs.


Ultracold Fermionic Feshbach Molecules of 23Na40K

Cheng-Hsun Wu, Jee Woo Park, Peyman Ahmadi, Sebastian Will, Martin W. Zwierlein,

Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 085301 (2012)

We report on the formation of ultracold fermionic Feshbach molecules of 23Na40K, the first fermionic molecule that is chemically stable in its ground state. The lifetime of the nearly degenerate molecular gas exceeds 100 ms in the vicinity of the Feshbach resonance. The measured dependence of the molecular binding energy on the magnetic field demonstrates the open-channel character of the molecules over a wide field range and implies significant singlet admixture. This will enable efficient transfer into the singlet vibrational ground state, resulting in a stable molecular Fermi gas with strong dipolar interactions.

Spin-Injection Spectroscopy of a Spin-Orbit Coupled Fermi Gas

Lawrence W. Cheuk, Ariel T. Sommer, Zoran Hadzibabic, Tarik Yefsah, Waseem S. Bakr, Martin W. Zwierlein,

Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 095302 (2012),

The coupling of the spin of electrons to their motional state lies at the heart of recently discovered topological phases of matter. Here we create and detect spin-orbit coupling in an atomic Fermi gas, a highly controllable form of quantum degenerate matter. We reveal the spin-orbit gap via spin-injection spectroscopy, which characterizes the energy-momentum dispersion and spin composition of the quantum states. For energies within the spin-orbit gap, the system acts as a spin diode. To fully inhibit transport, we open an additional spin gap, thereby creating a spin-orbit coupled lattice whose spinful band structure we probe. In the presence of s-wave interactions, such systems should display induced p-wave pairing, topological superfluidity, and Majorana edge states.

See Physics Viewpoint by Erich Mueller, Physics 5, 96 (2012)

MIT News

Article in IOP Physics World



Revealing the Superfluid Lambda Transition in a Unitary Fermi Gas

Mark J. H. Ku, Ariel T. Sommer, Lawrence W. Cheuk, Martin W. Zwierlein

Science 335, 563 (2012), published online on Science Express Jan 12th, 2012, 10.1126/science.1214987, arXiv:1110.3309

Science Perspective by Wilhelm Zwerger


We have observed the superfluid phase transition in a strongly interacting Fermi gas via high-precision measurements of the local compressibility, density and pressure down to near-zero entropy. Our data completely determine the universal thermodynamics of strongly interacting fermions without any fit or external thermometer. The onset of superfluidity is observed in the compressibility, the chemical potential, the entropy, and the heat capacity. In particular, the heat capacity displays a characteristic lambda-like feature at the critical temperature of Tc/TF = 0.167(13). This is the first clear thermodynamic signature of the superfluid transition in a spin-balanced atomic Fermi gas. Our measurements provide a benchmark for many-body theories on strongly interacting fermions, relevant for problems ranging from high-temperature superconductivity to the equation of state of neutron stars.

Data files for figures:

Fig. 1: Normalized compressibility vs normalized pressure: fig1.dat

Fig. 2: Compressibility, specific heat, condensate fraction vs temperature: fig2.dat

Fig. 3: Chemical potential, energy, free energy, entropy: fig3.dat

Fig. 4: Density and pressure versus fugacity: fig4.dat



Quantum degenerate Bose-Fermi mixture of chemically different atomic species with widely tunable interactions

Jee Woo Park, Cheng-Hsun Wu, Ibon Santiago, Tobias G. Tiecke, Peyman Ahmadi, Martin W. Zwierlein, Phys. Rev. A 85, 051602(R) (2012), arXiv:1110.4552 (2011)


We have created a quantum degenerate Bose-Fermi mixture of 23Na and 40K with widely tunable interactions via broad interspecies Feshbach resonances. Twenty Feshbach resonances between 23Na and 40K were identified. The large and negative triplet background scattering length between the two speices causes a sharp enhancement of the fermion density in the presence of a Bose condensate. As explained via the asymptotic bound-state model (ABM), this strong background scattering leads to a series of wide Feshbach resonances observed at low magnetic fields. Our work opens up the prospect to create chemically stable, fermionic ground state molecules of 23Na-40K where strong, long-range dipolar interactions will set the dominant energy scale.


Feynman diagrams versus Feynman quantum emulator

K. Van Houcke, F. Werner, E. Kozik, N. Prokofev,
B. Svistunov, M. Ku, A. Sommer, L. W. Cheuk, A. Schirotzek, M. W. Zwierlein

Nature Physics 10.1038/nphys2273

published online March 18 2012, arXiv:1110.3747 (2011)


Precise understanding of strongly interacting fermions, from electrons in modern materials to nuclear matter, presents a major goal in modern physics. However, the theoretical description of interacting Fermi systems is usually plagued by the intricate quantum statistics at play. Here we present a cross-validation between a new theoretical approach, Bold Diagrammatic Monte Carlo (BDMC), and precision experiments on ultra-cold atoms. Specifically, we compute and measure with unprecedented accuracy the normal-state equation of state of the unitary gas, a prototypical example of a strongly correlated fermionic system. Excellent agreement demonstrates that a series of Feynman diagrams can be controllably resummed in a non-perturbative regime using BDMC. This opens the door to the solution of some of the most challenging problems across many areas of physics.


Evolution of Fermion Pairing from Three to Two Dimensions

Ariel T. Sommer, Lawrence W. Cheuk, Mark Jen-Hao Ku, Waseem S. Bakr, Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 045302 (2012), arXiv:1110.3058

Viewpoint in Physics 5, 10 (2012) by Mohit Randeria


We follow the evolution of fermion pairing in the dimensional crossover from 3D to 2D as a strongly interacting Fermi gas of 6Li atoms becomes confined to a stack of two-dimensional layers formed by a one-dimensional optical lattice. Decreasing the dimensionality leads to the opening of a gap in radiofrequency spectra, even on the BCS-side of a Feshbach resonance. With increasing lattice depth, the measured binding energy EB of fermion pairs increases in surprising agreement with mean-field theory for the BEC-BCS crossover in two dimensions.


Strongly Interacting Isotopic Bose-Fermi Mixture Immersed in a Fermi Sea

Cheng-Hsun Wu, Ibon Santiago, Jee Woo Park, Peyman Ahmadi, Martin W. Zwierlein,

PRA 84, 011601(R) (2011), arXiv:1103.4630

We have created a triply quantum degenerate mixture of bosonic 41K and two fermionic species, 40K and 6Li. The boson is shown to be an efficient coolant for the two fermions, spurring hopes for the observation of fermionic superfluids with imbalanced masses. We observe multiple heteronuclear Feshbach resonances, in particular a wide s-wave resonance for the combination 41K-40K, opening up studies of strongly interacting isotopic Bose-Fermi mixtures. For large imbalance, we enter the polaronic regime of dressed impurities immersed in a bosonic or fermionic bath.


Spin Transport in Polaronic and Superfluid Fermi Gases

Ariel Sommer, Mark Ku, and Martin W. Zwierlein,

New Journal of Physics 13, 055009 (2011)

IOP Select

Focus on Strongly Correlated Quantum Fluids: From Ultracold Quantum Gases to QCD Plasmas

Preprint: arXiv:1103.2337 (2011)


We present measurements of spin transport in ultracold gases of fermionic Lithium-6 in a mixture of two spin states at a Feshbach resonance. In particular, we study the spin-dipole mode, where the two spin components are displaced from each other against a harmonic restoring force. We prepare a highly imbalanced, or polaronic, spin mixture with a spin-dipole excitation and we observe strong, unitarity-limited damping of the spin-dipole mode. In gases with small spin imbalance, below the Pauli limit for superfluidity, we observe strongly damped spin flow even in the presence of a superfluid core. This indicates strong mutual friction between superfluid and polarized normal spins, possibly involving Andreev reflection at the superfluid–normal interface.


Universal Spin Transport in a Strongly Interacting Fermi Gas

Ariel Sommer, Mark Ku, Giacomo Roati, and Martin W. Zwierlein

Nature 472, 201-204 (2011)

Preprint arXiv:1101.0780 (2011)


Nature News&Views by John Thomas

Physics Today

New Scientist

MIT News


Collision of two spin states of an ultracold Fermi gas. Although each spin cloud is a million times thinner than air, the two spin states essentially completely repel each other. The interactions between unlike spins are as strong as quantum mechanics allows. A spin down atom scatters with spin up atoms at every encounter, i.e. the mean free path for collisions is just one interparticle spacing - the shortest possible in a gas. This leads to the minimum diffusivity and the smallest spin conductivity ever possible. This leads to the interesting fact that an almost perfect fluid, i.e. the best conductor of mass, is the worst conductor for spin.


Transport of fermions is central in many fields of physics. Electron transport runs modern technology, defining states of matter such as superconductors and insulators. Transport of electron spin, rather than of charge, is being explored as a new way to carry information. Neutrino transport energizes supernova explosions following the collapse of a dying star, and hydrodynamic transport of the quark-gluon plasma governed the expansion of the early Universe. However, our understanding of non-equilibrium dynamics in such strongly interacting fermionic matter is still limited. Ultracold gases of fermionic atoms realize a pristine model for such systems and can be studied in real time with the precision of atomic physics. It has been established that even above the superfluid transition such gases flow as an almost perfect fluid with very low viscosity when interactions are tuned to a scattering resonance. However, in this work we show that spin currents, as opposed to mass currents, are maximally damped, and that interactions can be strong enough to reverse spin currents, with opposite spin components reflecting off each other. We determine the spin drag coefficient, the spin diffusivity, and the spin susceptibility, as a function of temperature on resonance and show that they obey universal laws at high temperatures. At low temperatures, the spin diffusivity approaches a minimum value set by h/m, the quantum limit of diffusion, where h is Planck's constant and m the atomic mass. For repulsive interactions, our measurements appear to exclude a metastable ferromagnetic state.

Observation of Fermi Polarons

The fate of a single particle interacting with its environment is one of the grand themes of physics. A well-known example is that of the electron moving through the crystal lattice of ions in a solid. The electron attracts positive ions, repels negative ones and thereby distorts the lattice. In other words, it polarizes its surroundings. The electron and the surrounding lattice distortions is best described as a new particle, the lattice polaron. It is a so-called quasiparticle with an energy and mass that differ from that of the bare electron. Polarons are crucial for the understanding of colossal magnetoresistance materials and they are responsible for conduction in fullerenes and polymers. Another famous impurity problem is the Kondo effect: Here, a magnetic impurity interacts with a Fermi sea of electrons, hindering their transport and leading to an increase in the metal's resistance below a certain temperature.

In the present work, we have observed Fermi polarons, dressed "spin down" impurity atoms immersed in a Fermi sea of "spin up" atoms. The interactions between the impurity and the environment can be freely tuned by means of a Feshbach resonance. This allows us to determine the polaron energy as function of interaction strength.

a) For weak interactions, the impurity (blue) can propagate freely through the environment (red), a Fermi sea of atoms. b) As the interaction is increased, the impurity starts to attract its surroundings, "dressing" itself with a cloud of environment atoms. This is the Fermi Polaron. c) For strong attraction, the spin down atom will bind exactly one spin up partner, forming a molecule. The transition from polarons to molecules occurs as soon as the binding can overcome Pauli blocking of the environment.

Observation of Fermi Polarons in a Tunable Fermi Liquid of Ultracold Atoms

Andre Schirotzek, Cheng-Hsun Wu, Ariel Sommer, and Martin W. Zwierlein

Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 230402 (2009).
paper download
See accompanying Viewpoint commentary  Physics 2, 48 (2009)



High-Temperature Superfluidity

Vortices in gas clouds Shown at the right are lattices of vortices (mini-tornadoes) in an ultracold gas of sodium atoms (green ball), in a gas of lithium molecules, made out of a "red" and a "blue" lithium atom, and in a strongly interacting Fermi gas, where the lithium atom pairs are only held together by the stabilizing presence of all the other particles in the gas. Those vortices are the direct proof of superfluidity in these systems. The background shows hurricane Isabel in the summer of 2003, NASA image ISS007E14887.


Vortices - Click for a larger version

Vortices and Superfluidity in a Strongly Interacting Fermi Gas
Nature-Link | cond-mat archive





Fermionic Superfluidity with Imbalanced Spin Populations

Whether it occurs in superconductors, helium-3 or inside a neutron star, fermionic superfluidity requires pairing of fermions, particles with half-integer spin. For an equal mixture of two states of fermions ("spin up" and "spin down"), pairing can be complete and the entire system will become superfluid. When the two populations of fermions are unequal, not every particle can find a partner. Will the system nevertheless stay superfluid?


Click to download larger version
  Click for larger version

Fermionic Superfluidity with Imbalanced Spin Populations
Science-Link | cond-mat archive

  A condensate emerges in an imbalanced Fermi mixture Image 1 | Image 2
Bose-Einstein Condensation of Molecules   Condensation of Fermion Pairs Close to a Feshbach Resonance
ISI Fast breaking comment
Formation Time of a Fermion Pair Condensate    



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