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Metastable Helium Condensates in optical Lattices: kinetics of the Mott-insulator transition


The German applicant achieved his Dipl.Phys. at the University of Hannover, working on magneto-optical trapping of 85Rb with Prof.W.Ertmer. He has graduated to doctor of the University of Amsterdam in the group of Prof.J.T.M.Walraven where he developed scientific expertise in collisional and collective behaviour of ultra-cold thermal clouds and Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) of 87Rb. He now plans a project within the cold atom group at LKB/ENS in Paris. His program, elaborated with Prof.M.Leduc and Prof.C .Cohen Tannoudji, aims for studying BECs of metastable helium in a 3D optical lattice. Metastables have a unique feature due to their large internal energy, i.e. ionisation by Penning collisions which allows highly sensitive detection.

The primary goal is to study the real-time kinetics of the quantum phase transition from super-fluid to Mott-insulator by monitoring the ion flux, caused by Penning collisions of atoms in each lattice site. Prof.G.V.Shlyapnikov in Orsay will provide theoretical assistance. The results will improve the understanding of the coherence of matter waves. For the success of this project the applicant will have to build up on his expertise and quickly advance to sophisticated methods, e.g. optical lattices, which offer perspectives in the domain of quantum computation.

The cold helium group, one out of only 3 in the world with a helium BEC, has the appropriate infrastructure and funding for this 2 years project. Together with the female supervisor Michèle Leduc, the applicant will be involved in research management and supervise 2 PhD students, 1 postdoc and several undergraduates. His development will benefit from the excellent experimental and theoretical conditions at ENS and the shared expertise with the entire cold atom group, which hosts a number of young physicists from many international collaborations.

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