Article abstract

Nature Physics 6, 289 - 295 (2010)
Published online: 28 February 2010 | doi:10.1038/nphys1535

Subject Categories: Atomic and molecular physics | Condensed-matter physics

Two-orbital SU(N) magnetism with ultracold alkaline-earth atoms

A. V. Gorshkov1, M. Hermele2, V. Gurarie2, C. Xu1, P. S. Julienne3, J. Ye4, P. Zoller5,6, E. Demler1,7, M. D. Lukin1,7 & A. M. Rey4

Fermionic alkaline-earth atoms have unique properties that make them attractive candidates for the realization of atomic clocks and degenerate quantum gases. At the same time, they are attracting considerable theoretical attention in the context of quantum information processing. Here we demonstrate that when such atoms are loaded in optical lattices, they can be used as quantum simulators of unique many-body phenomena. In particular, we show that the decoupling of the nuclear spin from the electronic angular momentum can be used to implement many-body systems with an unprecedented degree of symmetry, characterized by the SU(N) group with N as large as 10. Moreover, the interplay of the nuclear spin with the electronic degree of freedom provided by a stable optically excited state should enable the study of physics governed by the spin–orbital interaction. Such systems may provide valuable insights into the physics of strongly correlated transition-metal oxides, heavy-fermion materials and spin-liquid phases.

  1. Physics Department, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  2. Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
  3. Joint Quantum Institute, NIST and University of Maryland, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899-8423, USA
  4. JILA, NIST, and Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
  5. Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of Innsbruck, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  6. Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  7. Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics, Harvard–Smithsonian Center of Astrophysics, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

Correspondence to: A. V. Gorshkov1 e-mail: