Quantum Degenerate Gases Near A Feshbach Resonance

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This doctoral dissertation is concerned with the physics of strongly interacting cold alkali atoms at low temperatures near a Feshbach resonance. In Chapter 1, we establish a connection between superfluid 4He and the BCS theory of superconductivity, and cold alkali atoms. We give the history of cold atoms, describing the significant achievements, pitfalls and challenges. In Chapter 2, we explore the thermodynamics of strongly interacting Bosonic atoms. We explore the stability of atomic Bosonic condensates near a Feshbach resonance. We show that the experimentally attained atomic condensate is a saddle point of the free energy, but the kinetics of its decay is slow. We also show that there is a second, higher density condensate branch which has an Ising-like phase transition to a molecular (paired) condensate when ramped across the Feshbach resonance. We argue that due to the high density, inelastic 3-body processes possibly render this transition unobservable. In Chapter 3, we explore the thermodynamics of Fermionic atoms near a Feshbach resonance. We determine the zero-temperature (T less than/less than T sub(F) ) pair propagator for a spinimbalanced mixture of up and down spin Fermions, and use it to show that such a mixture becomes completely polarized at mu sub(down arrow)= -0.9 mu sub(up arrow) . We also determine the Thouless criterion for superfluidity in a spin-imbalanced Fermi mixture, and construct a phase diagram of such a system at zero temperature. We then compare our results with experiments performed by two different groups. We find that interaction modifications to the minority spin self-energy inferred from our analysis is roughly double those observed in experiments. This discrepancy is consistent with the expected accuracy of the theory.
In Chapter 4, we extend our analysis of the preceding chapter to calculate the surface tension of an interface between spin-polarized Fermions in the normal and superfluid phases. We show that, as expected, this surface tension decreases with increasing temperature and vanishes at a tricritical temperature, above which the transition becomes continuous. We also calculate the thickness of the interface; at T = 0, this is a few interparticle spacings, but diverges at the tricritical temperature. To compare with a set of relevant experiments, we also develop a phenomenological model for surface tension, and conclude that experimental surface tensions are an order of magnitude higher than what our microscopic calculation yields. We hypothesize possible mechanisms. In Chapter 5, we calculate the finite temperature phase diagram of a Bose-Fermi mixture produced from a spin-imbalanced two-component Fermi gas deep in the BEC phase. We show that there is a discontinuous transition between the superfluid and normal phase, with an entropy of mixing sufficient to cool the system down. We detail the construction of such a cooling scheme to cool a Fermi system below what is possible evaporatively, and find that the cooling efficiency is comparable to typical evaporative schemes. In Chapter 6, we shift our focus from thermodynamics to dynamics. We calculate shifts in the energy spectrum of a spin-balanced Fermionic superfluid of Cooper pairs due to the presence of energetically close states coupled by a Feshbach resonance. These shifts manifest themselves as clock-shifts in the radio-frequency spectrum of the superfluid. In addition to a broad asymmetric peak coming from the break-up of Cooper pairs, we find (for certain parameter ranges) a sharp, symmetric "bound-bound" spectral line coming from the conversion of Cooper pairs in one channel to pairs or molecules in another channel. Our theory shows remarkable quantitative agreement with experiments performed by an experimental group.

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