Quantum Simulation of Interacting Spin Models with Trapped Ions

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The quantum simulation of complex many body systems holds promise for understanding the origin of emergent properties of strongly correlated systems, such as high-Tc superconductors and spin liquids. Cold atomic systems provide an almost ideal platform for quantum simulation due to their excellent quantum coherence, initialization and readout properties, and their ability to support several forms of interactions. In this thesis, I present experiments on the quantum simulation of long range Ising models in the presence of transverse magnetic fields with a chain of up to sixteen ultracold 171-Yb+ ions trapped in a linear radio frequency Paul trap. Two hyperfine levels in each of the 171-Yb+ ions serve as the spin-1/2 systems. We detect the spin states of the individual ions by observing state-dependent fluorescence with single site resolution, and can directly measure any possible spin correlation function. The spin-spin interactions are engineered by applying dipole forces from precisely tuned lasers whose beatnotes induce stimulated Raman transitions that couple virtually to collective phonon modes of the ion motion. The Ising couplings are controlled, both in sign and strength with respect to the effective transverse field, and adiabatically manipulated to study various aspects of this spin model, such as the emergence of a quantum phase transition in the ground state and spin frustration due to competing antiferromagnetic interactions. Spin frustration often gives rise to a massive degeneracy in the ground state, which can lead to entanglement in the spin system. We detect and characterize this frustration induced entanglement in a system of three spins, demonstrating the first direct experimental connection between frustration and entanglement. With larger numbers of spins we also vary the range of the antiferromagnetic couplings through appropriate laser tunings and observe that longer range interactions reduce the excitation energy and thereby frustrate the ground state order. This system can potentially be scaled up to study a wide range of fully connected spin networks with a few dozens of spins, where the underlying theory becomes intractable on a classical computer.