Experimental signatures of an absorbing-state phase transition in an open driven many-body quantum system

Year: 2017

Authors: Gutiérrez R., Simonelli C., Archimi M., Castellucci F., Arimondo E., Ciampini D., Marcuzzi M., Lesanovsky I., Morsch O.

Autors Affiliation: School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, United Kingdom; Centre for the Mathematics and Theoretical Physics of Quantum Non-Equilibrium Systems, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, United Kingdom; Complex Systems Group, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Madrid, 28933, Spain; INO-CNR, Via G. Moruzzi 1, Pisa, 56124, Italy; Dipartimento di Fisica \’E. Fermi\’, Università di Pisa, Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 3, Pisa, 56127, Italy; CNISM UdR Dipartimento di Fisica \’E. Fermi\’, Università di Pisa, Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 3, Pisa, 56127, Italy

Abstract: Understanding and probing phase transitions in nonequilibrium systems is an ongoing challenge in physics. A particular instance are phase transitions that occur between a nonfluctuating absorbing phase, e.g., an extinct population, and one in which the relevant order parameter, such as the population density, assumes a finite value. Here, we report the observation of signatures of such a nonequilibrium phase transition in an open driven quantum system. In our experiment, rubidium atoms in a quasi-one-dimensional cold disordered gas are laser excited to Rydberg states under so-called facilitation conditions. This conditional excitation process competes with spontaneous decay and leads to a crossover between a stationary state with no excitations and one with a finite number of excitations. We relate the underlying physics to that of an absorbing-state phase transition in the presence of a field (i.e., off-resonant excitation processes) which slightly offsets the system from criticality. We observe a characteristic power-law scaling of the Rydberg excitation density as well as increased fluctuations close to the transition point. Furthermore, we argue that the observed transition relies on the presence of atomic motion which introduces annealed disorder into the system and enables the formation of long-ranged correlations. Our study paves the road for future investigations into the largely unexplored physics of nonequilibrium phase transitions in open many-body quantum systems.


Volume: 96 (4)      Pages from: 041602-1  to: 041602-6

More Information: R.G., M.M., and I.L. would like to thank Juan P. Garrahan and Carlos Perez-Espigares for useful discussions. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union\’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. 335266 (ESCQUMA), the EU-FET grant HAIRS 612862, and from the University of Nottingham. Further funding was received through the H2020-FETPROACT-2014 Grant No. 640378 (RYSQ). R.G. acknowledges the funding received from the European Union\’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 703683. We also acknowledge financial support from EPSRC Grant No. EP/M014266/1. Our work has benefited from the computational resources and assistance provided by the University of Nottingham High Performance Computing service.
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.96.041602

Citations: 50
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