Friday, February 24, 2012

Quantum-coherent coupling of a mechanical oscillator to an optical cavity mode

E. Verhagen, S. Deléglise, S. Weis, A. Schliesser & T. J. Kippenberg

Optical laser fields have been widely used to achieve quantum control over the motional and internal degrees of freedom of atoms and ions1, 2, molecules and atomic gases. A route to controlling the quantum states of macroscopic mechanical oscillators in a similar fashion is to exploit the parametric coupling between optical and mechanical degrees of freedom through radiation pressure in suitably engineered optical cavities3, 4, 5, 6. If the optomechanical coupling is ‘quantum coherent’—that is, if the coherent coupling rate exceeds both the optical and the mechanical decoherence rate—quantum states are transferred from the optical field to the mechanical oscillator and vice versa. This transfer allows control of the mechanical oscillator state using the wide range of available quantum optical techniques. So far, however, quantum-coherent coupling of micromechanical oscillators has only been achieved using microwave fields at millikelvin temperatures7, 8. Optical experiments have not attained this regime owing to the large mechanical decoherence rates9 and the difficulty of overcoming optical dissipation10. Here we achieve quantum-coherent coupling between optical photons and a micromechanical oscillator. Simultaneously, coupling to the cold photon bath cools the mechanical oscillator to an average occupancy of 1.7 ± 0.1 motional quanta. Excitation with weak classical light pulses reveals the exchange of energy between the optical light field and the micromechanical oscillator in the time domain at the level of less than one quantum on average. This optomechanical system establishes an efficient quantum interface between mechanical oscillators and optical photons, which can provide decoherence-free transport of quantum states through optical fibres. Our results offer a route towards the use of mechanical oscillators as quantum transducers or in microwave-to-optical quantum links11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

Spin Gradient Demagnetization Cooling of Ultracold Atoms

Patrick Medley, David M. Weld, Hirokazu Miyake, David E. Pritchard, and Wolfgang Ketterle

We demonstrate a new cooling method in which a time-varying magnetic field gradient is applied to an ultracold spin mixture. This enables preparation of isolated spin distributions at positive and negative effective spin temperatures of ±50   pK. The spin system can also be used to cool other degrees of freedom, and we have used this coupling to cool an apparently equilibrated Mott insulator of rubidium atoms to 350 pK. These are the lowest temperatures ever measured in any system. The entropy of the spin mixture is in the regime where magnetic ordering is expected.

Controlling the quantum stereodynamics of ultracold bimolecular reactions

M. H. G. de Miranda, A. Chotia, B. Neyenhuis, D. Wang, G. Quéméner, S. Ospelkaus, J. L. Bohn, J. Ye & D. S. Jin

Molecular collisions in the quantum regime represent a new opportunity to explore chemical reactions. Recently, atom-exchangereactions were observed in a trapped ultracold gas of KRb molecules. In an external electric field, these polar molecules can easily be oriented and the exothermic and barrierless bimolecular reactions, KRb+KRbright arrowK2+Rb2, occur at a rate that rises steeply with increasing dipole moment. Here we demonstrate the suppression of the bimolecular chemical reaction rate by nearly two orders of magnitude when we use an optical lattice trap to confine the fermionic polar molecules in a quasi-two-dimensional, pancake-like geometry, with the dipoles oriented along the tight confinement direction. With the combination of sufficiently tight confinement and Fermi statistics of the molecules, two polar molecules can approach each other only in a ‘side-by-side’ collision under repulsive dipole–dipole interactions. The suppression of chemical reactions is a prerequisite for the realization of new molecule-based quantum systems.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Klein Tunneling of a Quasirelativistic Bose-Einstein Condensate in an Optical Lattice

Tobias Salger, Christopher Grossert, Sebastian Kling, and Martin Weitz

A proof-of-principle experiment simulating effects predicted by relativistic wave equations with ultracold atoms in a bichromatic optical lattice that allows for a tailoring of the dispersion relation is reported. We observe the analog of Klein tunneling, the penetration of relativistic particles through a potential barrier without the exponential damping that is characteristic for nonrelativistic quantum tunneling. Both linear (relativistic) and quadratic (nonrelativistic) dispersion relations are investigated, and significant barrier transmission is observed only for the relativistic case.