Pushing the limits of atom interferometry...The system we want to realize is a Mach-Zender spatial interferometer operating with trapped Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs). Phase diffusion caused by interatomic collisions are suppressed implementing BECs with tunable interactions in ultra-stable optical potentials. Entangled states can be used to improve the sensitivity of the sensor beyond the standard quantum limit to ideally reach the ultimate, Heisenberg, limit set by quantum mechanics. Our project aims at developing a sensor with unprecedented spatial resolution able to compete with, and eventually overcome, state-of-the-art interferometers with cold (non condensed) atomic waves.

We report on the observation of quantum liquid droplets in a bosonic mixture. While ultracold atomic systems are commonly found in a gas phase, recent theoretical and experimental results have surpringly pointed out that under special circumstances condensed atoms can form self-bound liquid-like droplets. At the origin of this new phase is the coexistence of repulsive and attractive forces that perfectly balance to generate the self-binding mechanism. The two competing energies are provided by the mean-field interaction and the first beyond mean-field correction, the so-called Lee-Huang-Yang term. We observe the existence of such self-bound ensembles in a bosonic mixture of K-39 atoms and we characterize their equilibrium properties. Quantum droplets are predicted to be macroscopic zero-temperature objects, due to their peculiar energy spectrum, where no discrete modes are expected below the particle emission threshold. The observation reported in this work certainly opens the way to further studies of the exotic properties of this new phase, which also constitutes the only known quantum liquid together with helium nanodroplets.

G. Semeghini, et al.,
Self-Bound Quantum Droplets of Atomic Mixtures in Free Space
Phys. Rev. Lett. 120, 235301 (2018)

We explore the interplay between tunneling and interatomic interactions in the dynamics of a bosonic Josephson junction. We tune the scattering length of an atomic K39 Bose-Einstein condensate confined in a double-well trap to investigate regimes inaccessible to other superconducting or superfluid systems. In the limit of small-amplitude oscillations, we study the transition from Rabi to plasma oscillations by crossing over from attractive to repulsive interatomic interactions. We observe a critical slowing down in the oscillation frequency by increasing the strength of an attractive interaction up to the point of a quantum phase transition. With sufficiently large initial oscillation amplitude and repulsive interactions, the system enters the macroscopic quantum self-trapping regime, where we observe coherent undamped oscillations with a self-sustained average imbalance of the relative well population. The exquisite agreement between theory and experiments enables the observation of a broad range of many body coherent dynamical regimes driven by tunable tunneling energy, interactions and external forces, with applications spanning from atomtronics to quantum metrology.

G. Spagnolli, et al.,
Crossing Over from Attractive to Repulsive Interactions in a Tunneling Bosonic Josephson Junction
Phys. Rev. Lett. 118, 230403 (2017)

We report the experimental observation of the full phase diagram across a transition where the spatial parity symmetry is broken. Our system consists of an ultra-cold gas of 39K with tunable interactions trapped in a double-well potential. At a critical value of the interaction strength, we observe a continuous quantum phase transition where the gas localizes in one well or the other, thus breaking the underlying symmetry of the system. Furthermore, we show the robustness of the asymmetric state against controlled energy mismatch between the two wells. This is the result of hysteresis associated with an additional discontinuous quantum phase transition that we fully characterize. Our results pave the way to the production of a broad class of quantum entangled states including Schroedinger cat states with macroscopic atom number.

A. Trenkwalder et al.,
Quantum phase transition with parity-symmetry breaking and hysteresis
Nature Phys. 12, 826 (2016)

Anderson localization is a universal phenomenon affecting non-interacting quantum particles in a disordered environment. In three spatial dimensions, theory predicts a quantum phase transition from localization to diffusion at a critical energy, the mobility edge, which depends on the disorder strength. Although it has been recognized already long ago as a prominent feature of disordered systems, a complete experimental characterization of the mobility edge is still missing. Here we report the measurement of the mobility edge for ultracold atoms in a disordered potential created by laser speckles. We are able to control both the disorder strength and the energy of the system, so as to probe the position of the localization threshold in the disorder–energy plane. Our results might allow a direct experiment–theory comparison, which is a prerequisite to study the even more challenging problem of disorder and interactions.

G. Semeghini, et al.,
Measurement of the mobility edge for 3D Anderson localization
Nature Phys. 11, 554 (2015)

Differential interferometry (DI) with two coupled sensors is a most powerful approach for precision measurements in the presence of strong phase noise. However, DI has been studied and implemented only with classical resources. Here we generalize the theory of differential interferometry to the case of entangled probe states. We demonstrate that, for perfectly correlated interferometers and in the presence of arbitrary large phase noise, sub-shot noise sensitivities — up to the Heisenberg limit — are still possible with a special class of entangled states in the ideal lossless scenario.

M. Landini et al.,
Phase-noise protection in quantum-enhanced differential interferometry
New J. Phys. 16, 113074 (2014)

We report the realization of a Bose-Einstein condensate of 39K atoms without the aid of an additional atomic coolant. Our route to Bose-Einstein condensation comprises sub-Doppler laser cooling of large atomic clouds and evaporative cooling in an optical dipole trap where the collisional cross section can be increased using magnetic Feshbach resonances. Large condensates with almost 106 atoms can be produced in less than 15 s. Our achievements eliminate the need for sympathetic cooling with Rb atoms, which was the usual route implemented until now due to the unfavorable collisional property of 39K.

M. Landini et al.,
Direct evaporative cooling of 39K atoms to Bose-Einstein condensation
Phys. Rev. A 86, 033421 (2012)

K2 people

Louise Wolswijk
Master student
Giovanni Giusti
Master student
Leonardo Masi
PhD student
Giovanni Ferioli
PhD student
Giulia Semeghini
Research fellow
Giovanni Modugno
Permanent researcher
Massimo Inguscio
Permanent researcher
Marco Fattori
Permanent researcher
Former members:
Simon Coop
Manuele Landini
Sanjukta Roy
Giacomo Spagnolli
Andreas Trenkwalder

K2 contacts

For further information, request of material, job opportunities, please contact:

Marco Fattori
(fattori@lens.unifi.it)

K2 funding

ERC StG AISENS
EU FP7 QIBEC
FIRB Futuro in Ricerca
2010 RBFR08H058_001
INFN Progetto Premiale
Atom Interferometer