Taming, slowing and trapping atoms with light
Cold is quantum, Quantum is cool!
We shape quantum matter
Multicolored lasers for a variety of atoms
Keeping our eyes on the quantum world
Join our ultracool group!
High technology for great science

Welcome to the website of the Ultracold Quantum Gases group at the European Laboratory for Nonlinear Spectroscopy (LENS), the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Florence (Italy) and the Institute of Optics of the Italian National Research Council (CNR - INO). In our labs we use lasers and magnetic fields to produce the lowest temperatures of the Universe, just a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero...

At these temperatures, atoms stop moving and we can control them for a variety of different fundamental studies and applications. We can force atoms to arrange according to a periodic structure and simulate the behavior of crystalline solids and new materials. We can use the atoms as ultra-high accurate sensors to probe forces with the power of quantum mechanics. We can study how quantum particles combine together under the action of strong interactions and how superfluidity develops. We can use these ultracold atoms to process information and develop new quantum technologies.

Dress warmly and... follow us for this ultracold journey!


A New Pathway to Quantum Gases of Paramagnetic Polar Molecules

Quantum gases of paramagnetic polar molecules, namely compounds that combine a large electric dipole moment with a magnetic one, associated with a nonzero electronic spin, are regarded as pristine platforms for a wealth of quantum-technological applications and fundamental studies ranging from quantum simulation and computation to controlled quantum chemistry and precision measurements. Yet realization of quantum gases of doubly polar molecules, based on biatomic systems considered so far, remains an unsurpassed task. In our joint experimental and theoretical work, we solve this two-decade-old challenge by exploring a new class of paramagnetic polar molecules, obtained by binding lithium alkali and transition-metal chromium elements. Starting from an ultracold mixture of 6⁢Li and 53⁢Cr fermionic atoms, we efficiently produce a high phase-space-density, long-lived gas of bosonic 6⁢Li53⁢Cr dimers, prepared within a single, weakly bound vibrational level. Through state-of-the-art techniques and novel probing methods, we reveal the paramagnetic nature of this diatomic species, gain experimental control over its internal quantum state, and identify the main inelastic mechanisms that may limit the system stability. In parallel, we develop quantum-chemical calculations to build a complete model for the LiCr molecule. We predict a large electric dipole moment together with high electronic spin in the absolute ground state, and we identify suitable transitions both for the coherent transfer of our weakly bound LiCr dimers to their lowest rovibrational level and for their subsequent optical manipulation. Our studies establish an unparalleled new pathway to realize quantum gases of doubly polar molecules, with countless future applications in quantum science and technology.

S. Finelli et al.
Ultracold Li⁢Cr: A New Pathway to Quantum Gases of Paramagnetic Polar Molecules
PRX Quantum (2024)

First measurement of the superfluid fraction of a supersolid

Supersolids exhibit unique properties halfway between traditional superfluids and crystals. In our latest study, we examined the superfluid behavior of dipolar supersolids, focusing on the superfluid fraction, a crucial concept introduced by Nobel Laureate A. Leggett in the 1970s. By investigating a cold-atom dipolar supersolid, we measured a reduced superfluid fraction, revealing non-standard superfluid dynamics. We achieved this by probing the supercurrent between adjacent sites of the supersolid, triggering Josephson oscillations. Our findings pave the way for new research into phenomena like partially quantized vortices and supercurrents in supersolid systems, enhancing our understanding of related condensed matter systems.

G. Biagioni et al.
Measurement of the superfluid fraction of a supersolid by Josephson effect
Nature (2024)

See also UNIFI press release

Kelvin-Helmholtz instability in fermionic superfluids

At the interface between two fluid layers in relative motion, infinitesimal fluctuations can be exponentially amplified, inducing vorticity and the breakdown of laminar flow. While shear-flow instabilities in classical fluids have been extensively observed in various contexts, controlled experiments in the presence of quantized circulation are quite rare. In our last work, we observe how the contact interface between two counter-rotating atomic superflows develops into an ordered circular array of quantized vortices, which loses stability and rolls up into vortex clusters. We extract the instability growth rates and find that they obey the same scaling relations across different superfluid regimes, ranging from weakly-interacting bosonic to strongly-correlated fermionic pair condensates. Our results establish connections between vortex arrays and shear-flow instabilities, suggesting a possible interpretation of the observed quantized vortex dynamics as a manifestation of the underlying unstable flow. Moreover, they open the way for exploring out-of-equilibrium phenomena such as vortex-matter phase transitions and the spontaneous emergence and decay of two-dimensional quantum turbulence.

D. Henández-Rajkov et al.
Connecting shear-flow and vortex array instabilities in annular atomic superfluids
Nat. Phys. (2024)

Congratulations Giulio!

We are immensely proud of Giulio Biagioni, who has defended his doctoral thesis "Can a superfluid be solid? A study of the supersolid phase in a dipolar quantum gas", achieving the summa cum laude distinction. In the last few years, Giulio has given invaluable contributions to our research, enriching our group in countless ways and inspiring many experiments. We wish him all the success and fulfillment he deserves, and even more luck in his academic journey!

See also the thesis

Beatrice completes her master's thesis and goes on to her PhD studies

Beatrice successfully defends her Master's thesis titled ["Realization and characterization of LiCr ultracold bosonic dimers"], and starts her PhD on few-body physics and impurity problems in resonantly interacting Fermi mixtures.

Congrats and good luck Bea!

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