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Observing Single Atoms during Relaxation toward Equilibrium

21 February 2012 Freie Universitaet Berlin

Results of a Quantum Simulation Published in Nature Physics

Scientists from Freie Universität Berlin, the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich) have succeeded for the first time in simulating the dynamic behavior of strongly correlated individual atoms in solids. They were able to string atoms in so-called optical lattices and observe their dynamic behavior, which is determined by complex interactions with other atoms.

According to the involved researchers, the findings hold promise for understanding fundamental processes as well as addressing significant issues that have long been poorly understood. To some extent the experiments can explain how systems that are not in equilibrium can be returned to the steady state or how certain macroscopic properties such as temperature originate. The experiments and the underlying theories were published in the latest edition of Nature Physics.

The new experiment was carried out by Immanuel Bloch’s group at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics. It was supported by new analytical considerations and numerical calculations on supercomputers by the groups around Uli Schollwöck at LMU Munich and Jens Eisert at Freie Universität Berlin. The findings are the first data on single atoms in strongly correlated samples in optical lattices that were brought into a controlled non-equilibrium.

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