Spin-Orbit-Coupled Quantum Gases

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The dissertation explores the effects of synthetic spin-orbit coupling on the behaviour of quantum gases in several different contexts.

We first study realistic methods to create vortices in spin-orbit-coupled (SOC) Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC). We propose two different methods to induce thermodynamically stable static vortex configurations: (1) to rotate both the Raman lasers and the anisotropic trap; and (2) to impose a synthetic Abelian field on top of synthetic spin-orbit interactions. We solve the Gross-Pitaevskii equation for several experimentally relevant regimes and find new interesting effects such as spatial separation of left- and right-moving spin-orbit-coupled condensates, and the appearance of unusual vortex arrangements.

Next we consider cold atoms in an optical lattice with synthetic SOC in the Mott-insulator regime. We calculate the parameters of the corresponding tight-binding model and derive the low-energy spin Hamiltonian which is a combination of Heisenberg model, quantum compass model and Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction. We find that the Hamiltonian supports a rich classical phase diagram with collinear, spiral and vortex phases.

Next we study the time evolution of the magnetization in a Rashba spin-orbit-coupled Fermi gas, starting from a fully-polarized initial state. We model the dynamics using a Boltzmann equation, which we solve in the Hartree-Fock approximation. The resulting non-linear system of equations gives rise to three distinct dynamical regimes controlled by the ratio of interaction and spin-orbit-coupling strength λ: for small λ, the magnetization decays to zero. For intermediate λ, it displays undamped oscillations about zero and for large λ, a partially magnetized state is dynamically stabilized.

Motivated by an interesting stripe phase which appears in BEC with SOC [Li et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 225301 (2011)], we study the finite-temperature phase diagram of a pseudospin-1/2 Bose gas with contact interactions. We show that strong inter-spin interactions can lead to the appearance of magnetically ordered phases at temperatures above the superfluid transition. For the case of inter-spin attraction, we also discuss the possibility of a bosonic analogue of the Cooper-paired phase, however this state is not energetically favourable. We extend our calculations to a spin-orbit-coupled Bose gas to investigate the possibility of stripe ordering in the normal phase. However, within our approximations, we do not find an instability towards stripe formation.

Finally, we consider a two-dimensional Bose gas at zero temperature with an underlying quartic single-particle dispersion in one spatial direction. This Hamiltonian can be realized using the NIST scheme of spin-orbit coupling [Y.-J. Lin, K. Jimenez-Garcia, and I. B. Spielman, Nature 471, 83 (2011)], or using the shaken lattice scheme of Parker et al. [C. V. Parker, L.-C. Ha and C. Chin, Nature Physics 9, 769 (2013)]. By numerically comparing energies of various trial wave-functions, we show that, at low densities, the ground state is strongly correlated, in contrast to a typical mean-field BEC. The trial wave-function with the lowest energy is of Jastrow-type and it describes a state with finite, but strongly reduced, condensate fraction.