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Experimental tests of quantum nonlinear dynamics in atom optics

By Winfried K Hensinger, Norman R Heckenberg, Gerard J Milburn and Halina Rubinsztein-Dunlop


Cold atoms in optical potentials provide an ideal test bed to explore quantum nonlinear dynamics. Atoms are prepared in a magneto-optic trap or as a dilute Bose-Einstein condensate and subjected to a far detuned optical standing wave that is modulated. They exhibit a wide range of dynamics, some of which can be explained by classical theory while other aspects show the underlying quantum nature of the system. The atoms have a mixed phase space containing regions of regular motion which appear as distinct peaks in the atomic momentum distribution embedded in a sea of chaos. The action of the atoms is of the order of Planck's constant, making quantum effects significant. This tutorial presents a detailed description of experiments measuring the evolution of atoms in time-dependent optical potentials. Experimental methods are developed providing means for the observation and selective loading of regions of regular motion. The dependence of the atomic dynamics on the system parameters is explored and distinct changes in the atomic momentum distribution are observed which are explained by the applicable quantum and classical theory. The observation of a bifurcation sequence is reported and explained using classical perturbation theory. Experimental methods for the accurate control of the momentum of an ensemble of atoms are developed. They use phase space resonances and chaotic transients providing novel ensemble atomic beamsplitters. The divergence between quantum and classical nonlinear dynamics is manifest in the experimental observation of dynamical tunnelling. It involves no potential barrier. However a constant of motion other than energy still forbids classically this quantum allowed motion. Atoms coherently tunnel back and forth between their initial state of oscillatory motion and the state 180° out of phase with the initial state

Publisher: Institute of Physics
Year: 2003
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