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Three-dimensional localization of ultracold atoms in an optical disordered potential


In disordered media, quantum interference effects are expected to induce complete suppression of electron conduction. The phenomenon, known as Anderson localization, has a counterpart with classical waves that has been observed in acoustics, electromagnetism and optics, but a direct observation for particles remains elusive. Here, we report the observation of the three-dimensional localization of ultracold atoms in a disordered potential created by a speckle laser field. A phenomenological analysis of our data distinguishes a localized component of the resulting density profile from a diffusive component. The observed localization cannot be interpreted as the classical trapping of particles with energy below the classical percolation threshold in the disorder, nor can it be understood as quantum trapping in local potential minima. Instead, our data are compatible with the self-consistent theory of Anderson localization tailored to our system, involving a heuristic energy shift that offers scope for future interpretation.

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Figure 1: Experiment.
Figure 2: Evolution of the atomic cloud for two different amplitudes of the disorder.
Figure 3: Localized fraction versus disorder amplitude.
Figure 4: Diffusion coefficient versus disorder amplitude.
Figure 5: Evolution of the density profiles in a strong disorder (VR/h=680 Hz): experiment versus theory.

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We thank S. Seidel and V. Volchkov for experimental contributions, M. Besbes for assistance on numerical calculations, M. Lecrivain for helping design and realize the suspending coils, A. Villing and F. Moron for assistance with the electronics, and T. Giamarchi and B. van Tiggelen for fruitful discussions. This research was supported by the European Research Council (Starting grant ‘ALoGlaDis’, FP7/2007-2013 Grant Agreement No. 256294, and Advanced grant ‘Quantatop’), the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-08-blan-0016-01), the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, the Délégation Générale de l’Armement, the Triangle de la Physique and the Institut Francilien de Recherche sur les Atomes Froids. We acknowledge the use of the computing facility cluster Grappe massivement parallèle de calcul scientifique of the LUmiere MATière research federation (Fédération de Recherche LUmiere MATière 2764).

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Correspondence to V. Josse.

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Jendrzejewski, F., Bernard, A., Müller, K. et al. Three-dimensional localization of ultracold atoms in an optical disordered potential. Nature Phys 8, 398–403 (2012).

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