Creation of Rydberg Polarons in a Bose Gas

February 26, 2018

Electron (blue) orbits the nucleus (red) -- and its orbit encloses many other atoms of the Bose-Einstein-condensate (green). [Credit: Vienna University of Technology]

What is inside an atom between the nucleus and the electron? Usually there is nothing, but why could there not be other particles too? If the electron orbits the nucleus at a great distance, there is plenty of space in between for other atoms. A "giant atom" could be created, filled with ordinary atoms. All these atoms form a weak bond, creating a new, exotic state of matter at cold temperatures, referred to as Rydberg polarons.

[Francisco Caramago from Rice University, Harvard Physics postdoc Richard Schmidt, and] a team of researchers has now presented this state of matter in the journal Physical Review Letters. The theoretical work was done at Vienna University of Technology and Harvard University [R. Schmidt, Prof. Eugene Demler], the experiment was performed at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Two special fields of atomic physics, which can only be studied in extreme conditions, have been combined in this research project: Bose-Einstein condensates and Rydberg atoms. A Bose-Einstein condensate is a state of matter created by atoms at ultracold temperatures, close to absolute zero. Rydberg atoms are those in which one single electron is lifted into a highly excited state and orbits the nucleus at a very large distance.

Read a press release by Vienna University of Technology on "Researchers Report the Creation of Rydberg Polarons in a Bose Gas," February 26, 2018.

Also read: F. Camargo, R. Schmidt, J. D. Whalen, R. Ding, G. Woehl, Jr., S. Yoshida, J. Burgdörfer, F. B. Dunning, H. R. Sadeghpour, E. Demler, and T. C. Killian, "Creation of Rydberg Polarons in a Bose Gas," Physical Review Letters 120 (2018). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.120.083401