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      Bose-Einstein condensation of photons in an optical microcavity

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          Abstract

          Bose-Einstein condensation, the macroscopic ground state accumulation of particles with integer spin (bosons) at low temperature and high density, has been observed in several physical systems, including cold atomic gases and solid state physics quasiparticles. However, the most omnipresent Bose gas, blackbody radiation (radiation in thermal equilibrium with the cavity walls) does not show this phase transition, because the chemical potential of photons vanishes and, when the temperature is reduced, photons disappear in the cavity walls. Theoretical works have considered photon number conserving thermalization processes, a prerequisite for Bose-Einstein condensation, using Compton scattering with a gas of thermal electrons, or using photon-photon scattering in a nonlinear resonator configuration. In a recent experiment, we have observed number conserving thermalization of a two-dimensional photon gas in a dye-filled optical microcavity, acting as a 'white-wall' box for photons. Here we report on the observation of a Bose-Einstein condensation of photons in a dye-filled optical microcavity. The cavity mirrors provide both a confining potential and a non-vanishing effective photon mass, making the system formally equivalent to a two-dimensional gas of trapped, massive bosons. By multiple scattering off the dye molecules, the photons thermalize to the temperature of the dye solution (room temperature). Upon increasing the photon density we observe the following signatures for a BEC of photons: Bose-Einstein distributed photon energies with a massively populated ground state mode on top of a broad thermal wing, the phase transition occurring both at the expected value and exhibiting the predicted cavity geometry dependence, and the ground state mode emerging even for a spatially displaced pump spot.

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          Most cited references15

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          Bose-Einstein Condensation of Lithium: Observation of Limited Condensate Number

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            Bose-Einstein condensation of microcavity polaritons in a trap.

            We have created polaritons in a harmonic potential trap analogous to atoms in optical traps. The trap can be loaded by creating polaritons 50 micrometers from its center that are allowed to drift into the trap. When the density of polaritons exceeds a critical threshold, we observe a number of signatures of Bose-Einstein condensation: spectral and spatial narrowing, a peak at zero momentum in the momentum distribution, first-order coherence, and spontaneous linear polarization of the light emission. The polaritons, which are eigenstates of the light-matter system in a microcavity, remain in the strong coupling regime while going through this dynamical phase transition.
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              Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless crossover in a trapped atomic gas.

              Any state of matter is classified according to its order, and the type of order that a physical system can possess is profoundly affected by its dimensionality. Conventional long-range order, as in a ferromagnet or a crystal, is common in three-dimensional systems at low temperature. However, in two-dimensional systems with a continuous symmetry, true long-range order is destroyed by thermal fluctuations at any finite temperature. Consequently, for the case of identical bosons, a uniform two-dimensional fluid cannot undergo Bose-Einstein condensation, in contrast to the three-dimensional case. However, the two-dimensional system can form a 'quasi-condensate' and become superfluid below a finite critical temperature. The Berezinskii-Kosterlitz-Thouless (BKT) theory associates this phase transition with the emergence of a topological order, resulting from the pairing of vortices with opposite circulation. Above the critical temperature, proliferation of unbound vortices is expected. Here we report the observation of a BKT-type crossover in a trapped quantum degenerate gas of rubidium atoms. Using a matter wave heterodyning technique, we observe both the long-wavelength fluctuations of the quasi-condensate phase and the free vortices. At low temperatures, the gas is quasi-coherent on the length scale set by the system size. As the temperature is increased, the loss of long-range coherence coincides with the onset of proliferation of free vortices. Our results provide direct experimental evidence for the microscopic mechanism underlying the BKT theory, and raise new questions regarding coherence and superfluidity in mesoscopic systems.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                23 July 2010
                2010-11-11
                Article
                10.1038/nature09567
                1007.4088
                08b64158-64c3-483b-8ed8-0c1e92930801

                http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

                Custom metadata
                Nature 468, 545 (2010)
                cond-mat.quant-gas

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