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Phys Rev Lett. 2004 Jan 30;92(4):040401. Epub 2004 Jan 28.

Spontaneous soliton formation and modulational instability in Bose-Einstein condensates.

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Laboratoire Kastler Brossel, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris, France.


The dynamics of an elongated attractive Bose-Einstein condensate in an axisymmetric harmonic trap is studied. It is shown that density fringes caused by self-interference of the condensate order parameter seed modulational instability. The latter has novel features in contradistinction to the usual homogeneous case known from nonlinear fiber optics. Several open questions in the interpretation of the recent creation of the first matter-wave bright soliton train [Nature (London) 417, 150 (2002)]] are addressed. It is shown that primary transverse collapse, followed by secondary collapse induced by soliton-soliton interactions, produces bursts of hot atoms at different time scales.

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