Date of Award

Summer 7-18-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Physics

First Advisor

Ana Maria Rey

Second Advisor

John Bohn

Third Advisor

Victor Gurarie

Abstract

An optical lattice is the periodic potential that atoms experience via the ac-Stark shift when they are illuminated by counter-propagating laser beams that form a standing-wave pattern. Optical lattices have been widely used as a versatile platform in cooling, trapping, controlling atoms, and also for the study of a variety of problems in physics. The many-body states of ultracold atoms in optical lattices can be characterized by the quantum-correlations encoded in time-of-flight images. In this thesis, we mainly discuss the use of correlations function as a natural framework for characterizing quantum states in optical lattices.

The outline of the thesis is as follows. Chapter 1 gives a brief introduction to optical lattice potentials and ways for describing particles moving in a periodic potential. Chapter 2 explains the importance of correlations and discusses common methods to detect them in cold atom experiments.

Chapter 3 presents work done to study the many-body Schrödinger equation in a quasiperiodic potential and discusses its connection with the Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser (KAM) problem of classical mechanics. We posed a possible visualization of such a connection in experimentally accessible many-body observables. These observables are useful probes for the three characteristic phases of the problem: the metallic, Anderson, and band-insulator phases. In addition, they exhibit fingerprints of nonlinear phenomena such as bifurcations and devil's staircases. Our numerical treatment is complemented with a perturbative analysis that provides insight on the underlying physics. The perturbative-theory approach is particularly useful in illuminating the distinction between the Anderson-insulator and the band-insulator phases in terms of paired sets of dimerized states.

Chapter 4 discusses several theoretical procedures developed to understand a recent experiment on macroscopic quantum self-trapping (ST) performed in a 2D optical lattice. Mean field and truncated-Wigner-approximation (TWA) calculations are performed trying to reproduce the experimental observations. The discrepancy between the theory and the experiment lead to the hypothesis of a new type of ST caused by strong correlations. We analyze toy models to support it.

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