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Nature. 2010 Feb 25;463(7284):1057-60. doi: 10.1038/nature08814.

Exploring the thermodynamics of a universal Fermi gas.

Author information

1
Laboratoire Kastler Brossel, CNRS, UPMC, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 24 rue Lhomond, 75231 Paris, France. sylvain.nascimbene@ens.fr

Abstract

One of the greatest challenges in modern physics is to understand the behaviour of an ensemble of strongly interacting particles. A class of quantum many-body systems (such as neutron star matter and cold Fermi gases) share the same universal thermodynamic properties when interactions reach the maximum effective value allowed by quantum mechanics, the so-called unitary limit. This makes it possible in principle to simulate some astrophysical phenomena inside the highly controlled environment of an atomic physics laboratory. Previous work on the thermodynamics of a two-component Fermi gas led to thermodynamic quantities averaged over the trap, making comparisons with many-body theories developed for uniform gases difficult. Here we develop a general experimental method that yields the equation of state of a uniform gas, as well as enabling a detailed comparison with existing theories. The precision of our equation of state leads to new physical insights into the unitary gas. For the unpolarized gas, we show that the low-temperature thermodynamics of the strongly interacting normal phase is well described by Fermi liquid theory, and we localize the superfluid transition. For a spin-polarized system, our equation of state at zero temperature has a 2 per cent accuracy and extends work on the phase diagram to a new regime of precision. We show in particular that, despite strong interactions, the normal phase behaves as a mixture of two ideal gases: a Fermi gas of bare majority atoms and a non-interacting gas of dressed quasi-particles, the fermionic polarons.

PMID:
20182507
DOI:
10.1038/nature08814

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