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Probing the Superfluid–to–Mott Insulator Transition at the Single-Atom Level

W. S. Bakr, A. Peng, M. Tai, J. Simon, J. Gillen, S. Foelling, L. Pollet, and M. Greiner, Probing the Superfluid-to-Mott-Instulator Transition at the Single-Atom Level, Science 329, 547 (2010).

Quantum gases in optical lattices offered an opportunity to experimentally realize and explore condensed matter models in a clean, tunable system. We investigated the Bose-Hubbard model on a microscopic level using single atom–single lattice site imaging; our technique enables space- and time-resolved characterization of the number statistics across the superfluid–Mott insulator quantum phase transition. Site-resolved probing of fluctuations provided us with a sensitive local thermometer, allowed us to identify microscopic heterostructures of low entropy Mott domains, and enabled us to measure local quantum dynamics, that revealed surprisingly fast transition timescales. Our results may have served as a benchmark for theoretical studies of quantum dynamics, and may have guided the engineering of low entropy phases in a lattice.


W. S. Bakr, S. Fölling, J. I. Gillen, M. Greiner, R. Ma, A. Peng, J. Simon, M. E. Tai

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