Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics

First Advisor

Deborah S. Jin

Second Advisor

Eric A. Cornell

Third Advisor

Cindy A. Regal

Fourth Advisor

David G. Meyer

Fifth Advisor

Leo Radzihovsky

Abstract

A dilute Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) near a Feshbach resonance provides experimental physics with a clean and controllable system to investigate strongly interacting many-body systems. The ability to tune the scattering length allows BECs to be projected onto strong interactions from an initial weakly interacting state. However, historically, studying a bulk 3D strongly interacting BEC has been diffcult, as these systems are inherently unstable due to three-body inelastic collisions. Thus, 2D, 1D, lattice confined, and two component Fermi gases were used to explore the strong interactions in an ultracold gas. In this thesis, I present the first measurement of a strongly interacting 3D 85Rb BEC. I introduce our experimental system and the techniques we used to probe the BEC. I first report on probes of a BEC in the weakly interacting regime. To probe a spherical 85Rb BEC with strong interactions we implemented a novel experimental technique that allowed us to quickly change the interactions, bypassing inelastic losses. We projected the BEC onto unitarity, where the scattering length diverges and the interactions are infinite, in order to observe dynamics and the unexpectedly long lifetime of the gas. Additionally, we observe a universality of the gas with respect to the length scale set by the interparticle spacing.

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