Monday, June 24, 2013

1306.5181 (Jonathan B. Balewski et al.)

Coupling a single electron to a Bose-Einstein condensate    [PDF]

Jonathan B. Balewski, Alexander T. Krupp, Anita Gaj, David Peter, Hans Peter Büchler, Robert Löw, Sebastian Hofferberth, Tilman Pfau
The coupling of electrons to matter is at the heart of our understanding of material properties such as electrical conductivity. One of the most intriguing effects is that electron-phonon coupling can lead to the formation of a Cooper pair out of two repelling electrons, the basis for BCS superconductivity. Here we study the interaction of a single localized electron with a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) and show that it can excite phonons and eventually set the whole condensate into a collective oscillation. We find that the coupling is surprisingly strong as compared to ionic impurities due to the more favorable mass ratio. The electron is held in place by a single charged ionic core forming a Rydberg bound state. This Rydberg electron is described by a wavefunction extending to a size comparable to the dimensions of the BEC, namely up to 8 micrometers. In such a state, corresponding to a principal quantum number of n=202, the Rydberg electron is interacting with several tens of thousands of condensed atoms contained within its orbit. We observe surprisingly long lifetimes and finite size effects due to the electron exploring the wings of the BEC. Based on our results we anticipate future experiments on electron wavefunction imaging, investigation of phonon mediated coupling of single electrons, and applications in quantum optics.
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