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HYQS Report Summary

Project ID: 337638
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Netherlands

Mid-Term Report Summary - HYQS (Hybrid atom-ion Quantum Systems)

Hybrid systems of ultracold atoms and ions may be of significant interest to study quantum many-body physics in the laboratory. Self-assembled crystals of ions support sound waves that may interact with ultracold fermionic atoms to mimic electron-phonon coupling in natural materials, with the atoms now playing the role of the electrons. In this way the atom-ion system may be used to simulate a natural solid. Up until now, however, it is not known whether this hybrid system built out of atoms and ions can be made cold enough to reach the regime where quantum effects become important. It can be shown though, that the coldest temperatures should be reached for atom-ion combinations with large mass ratios. The experimentally most convenient combination with a large mass ratio is given by ytterbium ions interacting with lithium atoms, and it is this combination that is studied in this project for the first time.

Although both lithium atoms and ytterbium ions have been studied in laboratories in the world individually, merging the two poses significant challenges. For instance, large magnetic fields and high intensity lasers are needed to trap the atoms, both of which may perturb the trapping of the ions. In the first half of the project we have found solutions for all of these experimental hurdles and are about to merge the atoms and ions trapped in our setup for the first time. Calculations show that adverse molecule formation and charge transfer rates should be low, something we will try to confirm in the near future. Furthermore, large resonances in the atom-ion interaction are predicted that may be tuned by magnetic fields (Feshbach resonances). The most important quantity to find out will be the attainable temperature of the ion, to assess the suitability for studying quantum many-body physics in this system. Here, we simultaneously also develop the theory of the atom-ion quantum many-body system including experimental inaccuracies. Our most recent calculations indicate that our setup should allow temperatures low enough to observe the atom-ion Feshbach resonances for the first time. In order to study the quantum dynamics of the ultracold atom-ion sample, we will make use of techniques that were initially developed for quantum computing. Such 'quantum probing'should allow for detecting the tiny momentum transfers in ion-atom interactions with great precision.

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