Metastability and coherence of repulsive polarons in a strongly interacting Fermi mixture



Ultracold Fermi gases with tunable interactions provide a test bed for exploring the many-body physics of strongly interacting quantum systems1,2,3,4. Over the past decade, experiments have investigated many intriguing phenomena, and precise measurements of ground-state properties have provided benchmarks for the development of theoretical descriptions. Metastable states in Fermi gases with strong repulsive interactions5,6,7,8,9,10,11 represent an exciting area of development. The realization of such systems is challenging, because a strong repulsive interaction in an atomic quantum gas implies the existence of a weakly bound molecular state, which makes the system intrinsically unstable against decay. Here we use radio-frequency spectroscopy to measure the complete excitation spectrum of fermionic 40K impurities resonantly interacting with a Fermi sea of 6Li atoms. In particular, we show that a well-defined quasiparticle exists for strongly repulsive interactions. We measure the energy and the lifetime of this ‘repulsive polaron’9,12,13, and probe its coherence properties by measuring the quasiparticle residue. The results are well described by a theoretical approach that takes into account the finite effective range of the interaction in our system. We find that when the effective range is of the order of the interparticle spacing, there is a substantial increase in the lifetime of the quasiparticles. The existence of such a long-lived, metastable many-body state offers intriguing prospects for the creation of exotic quantum phases in ultracold, repulsively interacting Fermi gases.

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Figure 1: Energy spectrum of an impurity in the Fermi sea.
Figure 2: Spectral response of 40 K impurities in a 6 Li Fermi sea.
Figure 3: Decay rate of the repulsive polaron.
Figure 4: Rabi oscillations and the quasiparticle residue.


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We thank A. Sidorov for contributions in the early stage of the experiments, and T. Enss, S. Giorgini, W. Ketterle, J. Levinsen, C. Lobo, D. Petrov, A. Recati, R. Schmidt, J. Song, C. Trefzger, P. Zoller, W. Zwerger, M. Zwierlein and, in particular, M. Baranov for many discussions. We acknowledge support from the Austrian Science Fund FWF through the SFB FoQuS. M.Z. is supported by the Lise Meitner programme of the FWF. P.M. is indebted to M. Lewenstein for support through the ERC Advanced Grant QUAGATUA.

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C.K., M.Z., M.J., A.T., F.S. and R.G. did the experimental work and P.M. and G.M.B. did the theoretical work.

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Correspondence to M. Zaccanti.

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Kohstall, C., Zaccanti, M., Jag, M. et al. Metastability and coherence of repulsive polarons in a strongly interacting Fermi mixture. Nature 485, 615–618 (2012).

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