Neutral atoms in highly-excited (Rydberg) states are strongly-polarisable particles, which due to their exaggerated properties can experience quantum effects and interactions over macroscopic distances. Many-body systems of Rydberg atoms offer unique opportunities to create and investigate strong correlations in ultra-cold atomic samples. This work will be devoted to studying the collective effects that arise in the excitation of a dense cold gas towards Rydberg states. Many-body effects caused by Rydberg enhanced interactions can manifest themselves in dramatic ways, such as the generation of entanglement, structure formation, and exotic quantum phases.
A new experimental system for studying strongly correlated quantum matter is available for this project. We will investigate the emergence of crystalline order in the excited Rydberg gas due to interactions. A new method to directly image the Rydberg atoms will be developed for this purpose. Finally, the interactions properties of Rydberg atoms will be mapped onto the degenerate, long-lived ground state bath. This will extend the field of ultra-cold gases to the study of new strongly-correlated many-body phases of matter, shedding new light on self-ordering mechanisms and ultimately creating a powerful new platform for quantum information science. It will raise the applicant's international recognition, and establish him inside Europe as a leading researcher in this new and quickly evolving field.
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