The physics of ultracold quantum gases has been the subject of a long-lasting and intense research activity, which started almost a century ago with purely theoretical studies and had a fluorishing experimental development after the implementation of laser and evaporative cooling techniques that led to the first realization of a Bose Einstein condensate (BEC) over 25 years ago. In recent years, a great interest in ultracold atoms has developed for their use as platforms for quantum technologies, given the high degree of control and tunability offered by ultracold atom systems. These features make ultracold atoms an ideal test bench for simulating and studying experimentally, in a controlled environment, physical phenomena analogous to those occurring in other, more complicated, or even inaccessible systems, which is the idea at the heart of quantum simulation. In the rapidly developing field of quantum technologies, it is highly important to acquire an in-depth understanding of the state of the quantum many-body system that is used, and of the processes needed to reach the desired state. The preparation of the system in a given target state often involves the crossing of second order phase transitions, bringing the system strongly out-of-equilibrium. A better understanding of the out-of-equilibrium processes occurring in the vicinity of the transition, and of the relaxation dynamics towards the final equilibrium condition, is crucial in order to produce well-controlled quantum states in an efficient way. In this thesis I present the results of the research activity that I performed during my PhD at the BEC1 laboratory of the BEC center, working on ultracold gases of 23Na atoms in an elongated harmonic trap. This work had two main goals: the accurate determination of the equilibrium properties of a Bose gas at finite temperature, by the measurement of its equation of state, and the investigation of the out-of-equilibrium dynamics occurring when a Bose Einstein condensate is prepared by cooling a thermal cloud at a finite rate across the BEC phase transition.To study the equilibrium physics of a trapped atomic cloud, it is crucial to be able to observe its density distribution in situ. This requires a high optical resolution to accurately obtain the density profile of the atomic distribution, from which thermodynamic quantities can then be extracted. In particular, in a partially condensed atomic cloud at finite temperature, it is challenging to resolve well also the boundaries of the BEC, where the condensate fraction rapidly drops in a narrow spatial region. This required an upgrade of the experimental apparatus in order to obtain a high enough resolution. I designed, tested and implemented in the experimental setup new imaging systems for all main directions of view. Particular attention was paid for the vertical imaging system, which was designed to image the condensates in trap with a resolution below 2 μm, with about a factor 4 improvement compared to the previous setup. The implementation of the new imaging systems involved a partial rebuilding of the experimental apparatus used for cooling the atoms. This created the occasion for an optimization of the whole system to obtain more stable working conditions. Concurrently I also realized and included in the experiment an optical setup for the use of a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) to project time-dependent arbitrary light patterns on the atoms, creating optical potentials that can be controlled at will. The use of this device opens up exciting future scenarios where it will be possible to locally modify the trapping potential and to create well-controlled barriers moving through the atomic cloud. Another challenge in imaging the density distribution in situ is determined by the fact that the maximum optical density (OD) of the BEC, in the trap center, exceeds the low OD of the thermal tails by several orders of magnitude. In order to obtain an accurate image of the whole density profile, we developed a minimally destructive, multi-shot imaging technique, based on the partial transfer of a fraction of atoms to an auxiliary state, which is then probed. Taking multiple images at different extraction fractions, we are able to reconstruct the whole density profile of the atomic cloud avoiding saturation and maintaining a good signal to noise ratio. This technique, together with the improvements in the imaging resolution, has allowed us to accurately obtain the optical density profile of the Bose gas in trap, from which the 3D density profile was then calculated applying an inverse Abel transform, taking advantage of the symmetry of the trap. From images of the same cloud after a time-of-flight expansion, we measured the temperature of the gas. From these quantities we could find the pressure as a function of the density and temperature, determining the canonical equation of state of the weakly interacting Bose gas in equilibrium at finite temperature. These measurements also allowed us to clearly observe the non-monotonic temperature behavior of the chemical potential near the critical point for the phase transition, a feature that characterizes also other superfluid systems, but that had never been observed before in weakly interacting Bose gases. The second part of this thesis work is devoted to the study of the dynamical processes that occur during the formation of the BEC order parameter within a thermal cloud. The cooling at finite rate across the Bose-Einstein condensation transition brings the system in a strongly out-of-equilibrium state, which is worth investigating, together with the subsequent relaxation towards an equilibrium state. This is of interest also in view of achieving a better understanding of second order phase transitions in general, since such phenomena are ubiquitous in nature and relevant also in other platforms for quantum technologies. A milestone result in the study of second order phase transitions is given by the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, which provides a simple model capturing important aspects of the evolution of a system that crosses a second-order phase transition at finite rate. It is based on the principle that in an extended system the symmetry breaking associated with a continuous phase transition can take place only locally. This causes the formation of causally disconnected domains of the order parameter, at the boundaries of which topological defects can form, whose number and size scale with the rate at which the transition is crossed, following a universal power law. It was originally developed in the context of cosmology, but was later successfully tested in a variety of systems, including superfluid helium, superconductors, trapped ions and ultracold atoms. The BEC phase transition represents in this context a paradigmatic test-bench, given the high degree of control at which this second-order phase transition can be crossed by means of cooling ramps at different rates. Already early experiments investigated the formation of the BEC order parameter within a thermal cloud, after quasi-instantaneous temperature quenches or very slow evaporative cooling. In the framework of directly testing the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, further experiments were performed, both in 2D and 3D systems, focusing on the emergence of coherence and on the statistics of the spontaneously generated topological defects as a function of the cooling rate. The Kibble-Zurek mechanism, however, does not fully describe the out-of-equilibrium dynamics of the system at the transition, nor the post-quench interaction mechanisms between domains that lead to coarse-graining. Most theoretical models are based on a direct linear variation of a single control parameter, e.g. the temperature, across the transition. In real experiments, the cooling process is controlled by the tuning of other experimental parameters and a global temperature might not even be well defined, in a thermodynamic sense, during the whole process. Moreover, the temperature variation is usually accompanied by the variation of other quantities, such as the number of atoms and the collisional rate, making it difficult to accurately describe the system and predict the post-quench properties. Recent works included effects going beyond the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, such as the inhomogeneity introduced by the trapping potential, the role of atom number losses, and the saturation of the number of defects for high cooling rates. These works motivate further studies, in particular of the dynamics taking place at early times, close to the crossing of the critical point. The aim of the work presented in this thesis is to further investigate the timescales associated to the formation and evolution of the BEC order parameter and its spatial fluctuations, as a function of the rate at which the transition point is crossed. We performed experiments producing BECs by means of cooling protocols that are commonly used in cold-atom laboratories, involving evaporative cooling in a magnetic trap. We explored a wide range of cooling rates across the transition and found a universal scaling for the growth of the BEC order parameter with the cooling rate and a finite delay in its formation. The latter was already observed in earlier works, but for a much more limited range of cooling rates. The evolution of the fluctuations of the order parameter was also investigated, with an analysis of the timescale of their decay during the relaxation of the system, from an initial strongly out-of-equilibrium condition to a final equilibrium state. This thesis is structured as follows: The first chapter presents the theoretical background, starting with a brief introduction to the concept of Bose Einstein condensation and a presentation of different models describing the thermodynamics of an equilibrium Bose gas. The second part of this chapter then deals with the out-of-equilibrium dynamics that is inevitably involved in the crossing of a second-order phase transition such as the one for Bose-Einstein condensation. The Kibble-Zurek mechanism is briefly reviewed and beyond KZ effects are pointed out, motivating a more detailed investigation of the timescales involved in the BEC formation. In the second chapter, I describe the experimental apparatus that we use to cool and confine the atoms. Particular detail is dedicated to the parts that have been upgraded during my PhD, such as the imaging system. In the third chapter I show our experimental results on the measurement of the equation of state of the weakly interacting uniform Bose gas at finite temperature. In the fourth chapter I present our results on the out-of-equilibrium dynamics in the formation of the condensate order parameter and its spatial fluctuations, as a function of different cooling rates.

Equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium physics of Bose gases at finite temperature / Wolswijk, Louise. - (2022 Jun 24), pp. 1-127. [10.15168/11572_347823]

Equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium physics of Bose gases at finite temperature

Wolswijk, Louise
2022-06-24

Abstract

The physics of ultracold quantum gases has been the subject of a long-lasting and intense research activity, which started almost a century ago with purely theoretical studies and had a fluorishing experimental development after the implementation of laser and evaporative cooling techniques that led to the first realization of a Bose Einstein condensate (BEC) over 25 years ago. In recent years, a great interest in ultracold atoms has developed for their use as platforms for quantum technologies, given the high degree of control and tunability offered by ultracold atom systems. These features make ultracold atoms an ideal test bench for simulating and studying experimentally, in a controlled environment, physical phenomena analogous to those occurring in other, more complicated, or even inaccessible systems, which is the idea at the heart of quantum simulation. In the rapidly developing field of quantum technologies, it is highly important to acquire an in-depth understanding of the state of the quantum many-body system that is used, and of the processes needed to reach the desired state. The preparation of the system in a given target state often involves the crossing of second order phase transitions, bringing the system strongly out-of-equilibrium. A better understanding of the out-of-equilibrium processes occurring in the vicinity of the transition, and of the relaxation dynamics towards the final equilibrium condition, is crucial in order to produce well-controlled quantum states in an efficient way. In this thesis I present the results of the research activity that I performed during my PhD at the BEC1 laboratory of the BEC center, working on ultracold gases of 23Na atoms in an elongated harmonic trap. This work had two main goals: the accurate determination of the equilibrium properties of a Bose gas at finite temperature, by the measurement of its equation of state, and the investigation of the out-of-equilibrium dynamics occurring when a Bose Einstein condensate is prepared by cooling a thermal cloud at a finite rate across the BEC phase transition.To study the equilibrium physics of a trapped atomic cloud, it is crucial to be able to observe its density distribution in situ. This requires a high optical resolution to accurately obtain the density profile of the atomic distribution, from which thermodynamic quantities can then be extracted. In particular, in a partially condensed atomic cloud at finite temperature, it is challenging to resolve well also the boundaries of the BEC, where the condensate fraction rapidly drops in a narrow spatial region. This required an upgrade of the experimental apparatus in order to obtain a high enough resolution. I designed, tested and implemented in the experimental setup new imaging systems for all main directions of view. Particular attention was paid for the vertical imaging system, which was designed to image the condensates in trap with a resolution below 2 μm, with about a factor 4 improvement compared to the previous setup. The implementation of the new imaging systems involved a partial rebuilding of the experimental apparatus used for cooling the atoms. This created the occasion for an optimization of the whole system to obtain more stable working conditions. Concurrently I also realized and included in the experiment an optical setup for the use of a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD) to project time-dependent arbitrary light patterns on the atoms, creating optical potentials that can be controlled at will. The use of this device opens up exciting future scenarios where it will be possible to locally modify the trapping potential and to create well-controlled barriers moving through the atomic cloud. Another challenge in imaging the density distribution in situ is determined by the fact that the maximum optical density (OD) of the BEC, in the trap center, exceeds the low OD of the thermal tails by several orders of magnitude. In order to obtain an accurate image of the whole density profile, we developed a minimally destructive, multi-shot imaging technique, based on the partial transfer of a fraction of atoms to an auxiliary state, which is then probed. Taking multiple images at different extraction fractions, we are able to reconstruct the whole density profile of the atomic cloud avoiding saturation and maintaining a good signal to noise ratio. This technique, together with the improvements in the imaging resolution, has allowed us to accurately obtain the optical density profile of the Bose gas in trap, from which the 3D density profile was then calculated applying an inverse Abel transform, taking advantage of the symmetry of the trap. From images of the same cloud after a time-of-flight expansion, we measured the temperature of the gas. From these quantities we could find the pressure as a function of the density and temperature, determining the canonical equation of state of the weakly interacting Bose gas in equilibrium at finite temperature. These measurements also allowed us to clearly observe the non-monotonic temperature behavior of the chemical potential near the critical point for the phase transition, a feature that characterizes also other superfluid systems, but that had never been observed before in weakly interacting Bose gases. The second part of this thesis work is devoted to the study of the dynamical processes that occur during the formation of the BEC order parameter within a thermal cloud. The cooling at finite rate across the Bose-Einstein condensation transition brings the system in a strongly out-of-equilibrium state, which is worth investigating, together with the subsequent relaxation towards an equilibrium state. This is of interest also in view of achieving a better understanding of second order phase transitions in general, since such phenomena are ubiquitous in nature and relevant also in other platforms for quantum technologies. A milestone result in the study of second order phase transitions is given by the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, which provides a simple model capturing important aspects of the evolution of a system that crosses a second-order phase transition at finite rate. It is based on the principle that in an extended system the symmetry breaking associated with a continuous phase transition can take place only locally. This causes the formation of causally disconnected domains of the order parameter, at the boundaries of which topological defects can form, whose number and size scale with the rate at which the transition is crossed, following a universal power law. It was originally developed in the context of cosmology, but was later successfully tested in a variety of systems, including superfluid helium, superconductors, trapped ions and ultracold atoms. The BEC phase transition represents in this context a paradigmatic test-bench, given the high degree of control at which this second-order phase transition can be crossed by means of cooling ramps at different rates. Already early experiments investigated the formation of the BEC order parameter within a thermal cloud, after quasi-instantaneous temperature quenches or very slow evaporative cooling. In the framework of directly testing the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, further experiments were performed, both in 2D and 3D systems, focusing on the emergence of coherence and on the statistics of the spontaneously generated topological defects as a function of the cooling rate. The Kibble-Zurek mechanism, however, does not fully describe the out-of-equilibrium dynamics of the system at the transition, nor the post-quench interaction mechanisms between domains that lead to coarse-graining. Most theoretical models are based on a direct linear variation of a single control parameter, e.g. the temperature, across the transition. In real experiments, the cooling process is controlled by the tuning of other experimental parameters and a global temperature might not even be well defined, in a thermodynamic sense, during the whole process. Moreover, the temperature variation is usually accompanied by the variation of other quantities, such as the number of atoms and the collisional rate, making it difficult to accurately describe the system and predict the post-quench properties. Recent works included effects going beyond the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, such as the inhomogeneity introduced by the trapping potential, the role of atom number losses, and the saturation of the number of defects for high cooling rates. These works motivate further studies, in particular of the dynamics taking place at early times, close to the crossing of the critical point. The aim of the work presented in this thesis is to further investigate the timescales associated to the formation and evolution of the BEC order parameter and its spatial fluctuations, as a function of the rate at which the transition point is crossed. We performed experiments producing BECs by means of cooling protocols that are commonly used in cold-atom laboratories, involving evaporative cooling in a magnetic trap. We explored a wide range of cooling rates across the transition and found a universal scaling for the growth of the BEC order parameter with the cooling rate and a finite delay in its formation. The latter was already observed in earlier works, but for a much more limited range of cooling rates. The evolution of the fluctuations of the order parameter was also investigated, with an analysis of the timescale of their decay during the relaxation of the system, from an initial strongly out-of-equilibrium condition to a final equilibrium state. This thesis is structured as follows: The first chapter presents the theoretical background, starting with a brief introduction to the concept of Bose Einstein condensation and a presentation of different models describing the thermodynamics of an equilibrium Bose gas. The second part of this chapter then deals with the out-of-equilibrium dynamics that is inevitably involved in the crossing of a second-order phase transition such as the one for Bose-Einstein condensation. The Kibble-Zurek mechanism is briefly reviewed and beyond KZ effects are pointed out, motivating a more detailed investigation of the timescales involved in the BEC formation. In the second chapter, I describe the experimental apparatus that we use to cool and confine the atoms. Particular detail is dedicated to the parts that have been upgraded during my PhD, such as the imaging system. In the third chapter I show our experimental results on the measurement of the equation of state of the weakly interacting uniform Bose gas at finite temperature. In the fourth chapter I present our results on the out-of-equilibrium dynamics in the formation of the condensate order parameter and its spatial fluctuations, as a function of different cooling rates.
XXXIV
2020-2021
Fisica (29/10/12-)
Physics
Ferrari, Gabriele
Lamporesi, Giacomo
no
Inglese
Settore FIS/03 - Fisica della Materia
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