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      Single-Atom Resolved Fluorescence Imaging of an Atomic Mott Insulator

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          Abstract

          The reliable detection of single quantum particles has revolutionized the field of quantum optics and quantum information processing. For several years, researchers have aspired to extend such detection possibilities to larger scale strongly correlated quantum systems, in order to record in-situ images of a quantum fluid in which each underlying quantum particle is detected. Here we report on fluorescence imaging of strongly interacting bosonic Mott insulators in an optical lattice with single-atom and single-site resolution. From our images, we fully reconstruct the atom distribution on the lattice and identify individual excitations with high fidelity. A comparison of the radial density and variance distributions with theory provides a precise in-situ temperature and entropy measurement from single images. We observe Mott-insulating plateaus with near zero entropy and clearly resolve the high entropy rings separating them although their width is of the order of only a single lattice site. Furthermore, we show how a Mott insulator melts for increasing temperatures due to a proliferation of local defects. Our experiments open a new avenue for the manipulation and analysis of strongly interacting quantum gases on a lattice, as well as for quantum information processing with ultracold atoms. Using the high spatial resolution, it is now possible to directly address individual lattice sites. One could, e.g., introduce local perturbations or access regions of high entropy, a crucial requirement for the implementation of novel cooling schemes for atoms on a lattice.

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          Most cited references 20

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          Many-Body Physics with Ultracold Gases

          This article reviews recent experimental and theoretical progress on many-body phenomena in dilute, ultracold gases. Its focus are effects beyond standard weak-coupling descriptions, like the Mott-Hubbard-transition in optical lattices, strongly interacting gases in one and two dimensions or lowest Landau level physics in quasi two-dimensional gases in fast rotation. Strong correlations in fermionic gases are discussed in optical lattices or near Feshbach resonances in the BCS-BEC crossover.
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            Boson localization and the superfluid-insulator transition

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              Cold bosonic atoms in optical lattices

              The dynamics of an ultracold dilute gas of bosonic atoms in an optical lattice can be described by a Bose-Hubbard model where the system parameters are controlled by laser light. We study the continuous (zero temperature) quantum phase transition from the superfluid to the Mott insulator phase induced by varying the depth of the optical potential, where the Mott insulator phase corresponds to a commensurate filling of the lattice (``optical crystal''). Examples for formation of Mott structures in optical lattices with a superimposed harmonic trap, and in optical superlattices are presented.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                18 June 2010
                2010-07-29
                Article
                10.1038/nature09378
                1006.3799

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

                Custom metadata
                Nature 467, 68 (2010)
                cond-mat.quant-gas quant-ph

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