A molecular Bose-Einstein condensate emerges from a Fermi sea

Physics – Condensed Matter – Statistical Mechanics

Scientific paper

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Scientific paper

The realization of fermionic superfluidity in a dilute gas of atoms, analogous to superconductivity in metals, is a long-standing goal of ultracold gas research. Beyond being a new example of this fascinating quantum phenomenon, fermionic superfluidity in an atomic gas holds the promise of adjustable interactions and the ability to tune continuously from BCS-type superfluidity to Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC). This crossover between BCS superfluidity of correlated atom pairs in momentum space and BEC of local pairs has long been of theoretical interest, motivated in part by the discovery of high Tc superconductors. In atomic Fermi gas experiments superfluidity has not yet been demonstrated; however recent experiments have made remarkable progress toward this goal. Starting from an ultracold Fermi gas experimenters have used Feshbach resonances to reversibly create molecules, i.e. composite bosons consisting of local fermion pairs. Furthermore, the experiments have shown that the resulting diatomic molecules can have surprisingly long lifetimes. Here we report the conversion of a Fermi sea of atoms into a molecular BEC. In addition to being the first molecular condensate in thermal equilibrium, this BEC represents one extreme of the predicted BCS-BEC continuum.

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