Pairing of fermionic lithium-6 throughout the BEC-BCS crossover
Partridge, Guthrie Bran
Hulet, Randall G.
Doctor of Philosophy
The pairing of fermionic particles is an essential ingredient of superconductivity and of the superfluidity of 3He. While such phenomena are accurately described by BCS theory in the limit of weak pairing strength, a complete understanding remains elusive when pairing strength is increased, such as in high temperature superconductors. We create ultracold gases of trapped fermionic 6Li atoms, through which we directly observe fermionic pairing. In our system, there are no impurities whatsoever, and parameters such as the number and temperature of the trapped atoms are precisely and independently controlled. In addition, a Feshbach resonance enables the continuous tuning of interaction strength and sign between the paired atoms. This control allows us to observe the smooth crossover of a molecular Bose Einstein condensate (MBEC) to a superfluid of weakly interacting Cooper pairs. With these tools, we have performed several fundamental measurements of pairing in fermionic systems. We use optical molecular spectroscopy to precisely measure the closed-channel contribution to the many body state of paired 6Li atoms within a broad Feshbach resonance. The magnitude of this contribution is small, and supports the concept of universality for the description of broad Feshbach resonances. Moreover, the dynamics of the excitation provide clear evidence for pairing across the BEC-BCS crossover, and for the first time, into the weakly interacting BCS regime. We also prepare a polarized Fermi gas with unequal numbers of two spin states of 6Li atoms. The real-space densities of the polarized, strongly-interacting, two-component Fermi gas reveal two low temperature regimes. At the lowest temperatures, the gas separates into a phase with a uniformly paired superfluid core surrounded by a shell of normal, unpaired atoms. This phase separation is accompanied by a spatial deformation of the core. At higher temperatures, the uniformly paired core persists, though it does not deform. This temperature dependence is consistent with a tri-critical point in the phase diagram. These measurements of pairing in a polarized Fermi gas are relevant to predictions of exotic phases of quark matter and magnetized superconductors.
Molecular physics; Atomic physics