results for au:Signoles_A in:physics
How do isolated quantum systems approach an equilibrium state? We experimentally and theoretically address this question for a prototypical spin system formed by ultracold atoms prepared in two Rydberg states with different orbital angular momenta. By coupling these states with a resonant microwave driving we realize a dipolar XY spin-1/2 model in an external field. Starting from a spin-polarized state we suddenly switch on the external field and monitor the subsequent many-body dynamics. Our key observation is density dependent relaxation of the total magnetization much faster than typical decoherence rates. To determine the processes governing this relaxation we compare with different theoretical approaches which treat quantum effects on initial conditions and dynamical laws separately. This allows us to identify an intrinsically quantum component to the relaxation attributed to primordial quantum fluctuations.
We present combined measurements of the spatially-resolved optical spectrum and the total excited-atom number in an ultracold gas of three-level atoms under electromagnetically induced transparency conditions involving high-lying Rydberg states. The observed optical transmission of a weak probe laser at the center of the coupling region exhibits a double peaked spectrum as a function of detuning, whilst the Rydberg atom number shows a comparatively narrow single resonance. By imaging the transmitted light onto a charge-coupled-device camera, we record hundreds of spectra in parallel, which are used to map out the spatial profile of Rabi frequencies of the coupling laser. Using all the information available we can reconstruct the full one-body density matrix of the three-level system, which provides the optical susceptibility and the Rydberg density as a function of spatial position. These results help elucidate the connection between three-level interference phenomena, including the interplay of matter and light degrees of freedom and will facilitate new studies of many-body effects in optically driven Rydberg gases.
The Interaction Enhanced Imaging technique allows to detect the spatial distribution of strongly interacting impurities embedded within a gas of background atoms used as a contrast medium. Here we present a detailed study of this technique, applied to detect Rydberg $P$ states. We experimentally realize fast and efficient three-photon excitation of $P$ states, optimized according to the results of a theoretical effective two-level model. Few Rydberg $P$-state atoms, prepared in a small cloud with dimensions comparable to the blockade radius, are detected with a good sensitivity by averaging over 50 shots. The main aspects of the technique are described with a hard-sphere model, finding good agreement with experimental data. This work paves the way to a non-destructive optical detection of single Rydberg atoms with high spatial and temporal resolution.