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Nature. 2001 Jul 19;412(6844):295-9.

Dynamics of collapsing and exploding Bose-Einstein condensates.

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JILA, Campus Box 440, and Department of Physics, Campus Box 390, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


When atoms in a gas are cooled to extremely low temperatures, they will-under the appropriate conditions-condense into a single quantum-mechanical state known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. In such systems, quantum-mechanical behaviour is evident on a macroscopic scale. Here we explore the dynamics of how a Bose-Einstein condensate collapses and subsequently explodes when the balance of forces governing its size and shape is suddenly altered. A condensate's equilibrium size and shape is strongly affected by the interatomic interactions. Our ability to induce a collapse by switching the interactions from repulsive to attractive by tuning an externally applied magnetic field yields detailed information on the violent collapse process. We observe anisotropic atom bursts that explode from the condensate, atoms leaving the condensate in undetected forms, spikes appearing in the condensate wavefunction and oscillating remnant condensates that survive the collapse. All these processes have curious dependences on time, on the strength of the interaction and on the number of condensate atoms. Although the system would seem to be simple and well characterized, our measurements reveal many phenomena that challenge theoretical models.


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