Phase Transitions in Engineered Ultracold Quantum Systems
Price, Ryan M.
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The study of quantum degenerate gases has many applications in topics such as condensed matter dynamics, precision measurements and quantum phase transitions. We built an apparatus to create 87Rb Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) and generated, via optical and magnetic interactions, novel quantum systems in which we studied the contained phase transitions. For our first experiment we quenched multi-spin component BECs from a miscible to dynamically unstable immiscible state. The transition rapidly drives any spin fluctuations with a coherent growth process driving the formation of numerous spin polarized domains. At much longer times these domains coarsen as the system approaches equilibrium. For our second experiment we explored the magnetic phases present in a spin-1 spin-orbit coupled BEC and the contained quantum phase transitions. We observed ferromagnetic and unpolarized phases which are stabilized by the spin-orbit coupling’s explicit locking between spin and motion. These two phases are separated by a critical curve containing both first-order and second-order transitions joined at a critical point. The narrow first-order transition gives rise to long-lived metastable states. For our third experiment we prepared independent BECs in a double-well potential, with an artificial magnetic field between the BECs. We transitioned to a single BEC by lowering the barrier while expanding the region of artificial field to cover the resulting single BEC. We compared the vortex distribution nucleated via conventional dynamics to those produced by our procedure, showing our dynamical process populates vortices much more rapidly and in larger number than conventional nucleation.