Evidence of Bose-Einstein Condensation in an Atomic Gas with Attractive Interactions
Evidence for Bose-Einstein condensation of a gas of spin-polarized 7Li atoms is reported. Atoms confined to a permanent-magnet trap are laser cooled to 200 μK and are then evaporatively cooled to lower temperatures. Phase-space densities consistent with quantum degeneracy are measured for temperatures in the range of 100 to 400 nK. At these high phase-space densities, diffraction of a probe laser beam is observed. Modeling shows that this diffraction is a sensitive indicator of the presence of a spatially localized condensate. Although measurements of the number of condensate atoms have not been performed, the measured phase-space densities are consistent with a majority of the atoms being in the condensate, for total trap numbers as high as 2×10˄5 atoms. For 7Li, the spin-triplet s-wave scattering length is known to be negative, corresponding to an attractive interatomic interaction. Previously, Bose-Einstein condensation was predicted not to occur in such a system.