.. Istituto Nazionale di Ottica
Bose-Einstein Condensation
Trento, Italy


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Bose-Einstein condensates, cold atomic gases and quantum fluids

Since the experimental realization of BEC in 1995 the study of ultracold atomic gases has become a wide and fascinating field of physics involving hundreds of researchers in many laboratories around the world.
This field lies at the heart of quantum mechanics and has grown along with many developments of high interdisciplinary value. It benefits from the large variety of atomic species which can be used to reach the quantum degenerate regime and from all of the techniques available for manipulating atoms with light, and with electric and magnetic forces.
The investigation of atomic quantum gases opens new horizons for both fundamental and applied research, starting from the basic laws which govern systems made of few or many particles, and leading to quantum control, interferometry, precise measurements, quantum simulations, etc..
The physics of Bose-Einstein condensates and ultracold gases represents an outstanding example of scientific research characterized by experimentalists and theorists working side by side, making progresses as a result of fruitful collaborations.

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Theory of quantum gases... Quantum fluids of light...
Experiments with cold gases...

Quantum Fluids of Light

Principal investigator:
Iacopo Carusotto.

An implicit assumption of Newton's corpuscular theory is that the basic constituents of light do not mutually interact. Had Newton foreseen the possibility of efficient collisions between these corpuscles, would he have imagined the possibility of a luminous liquid of such particles? This research line aims at investigating the novel properties of light in systems with large optical nonlinearities where the many photons forming the light field display a rich collective dynamics. As compared to standard many-body systems like helium and ultracold atoms, new perspectives are opened by the intrinsic non-equilibrium nature of the photon gas. A number of material systems can be used for these studies, from nonlinear optical crystals in the strong light-matter coupling regime to semiconductor microcavities and even circuit QED devices in the microwave domain. A review article has been recently written on this topic: Quantum Fluids of Light, I. Carusotto and C. Ciuti, Reviews of Modern Physics 85, 299 (2013).

Superfluidy of light has been experimentally demonstrated at LKB in Paris, following a previous Trento-Paris prediction: a fluid of dressed photons (exciton-polaritons) was sent against a structural defect of a microcavity. While at high speeds a variety of perturbations appear (Cerenkov cones, dark solitons, vortices), at low speeds no excitation is created in the fluid. The long-term objectives of this research line are to explore what new exotic states of matter can be generated in quantum fluids of light and, conversely, how many-body effects in the fluid of light may reflect into new applications to quantum photonic technologies.

Experimental images of a photon superfluid hitting a localized defect at different flow speeds