When a system crosses a second-order phase transition on a finite timescale, spontaneous symmetry breaking can cause the development of domains with independent order parameters, which then grow and approach each other creating boundary defects. This is known as the Kibble–Zurek mechanism. Originally introduced in cosmology, it applies to both classical and quantum phase transitions, in a wide variety of physical systems. Here we report on the spontaneous creation of solitons in Bose–Einstein condensates through the Kibble–Zurek mechanism. We measure the power-law dependence of defect number on the quench time, and show that lower atomic densities enhance defect formation. These results provide a promising test bed for the determination of critical exponents in Bose–Einstein condensates.
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We are indebted to L. P. Pitaevskii, I. Carusotto and A. Recati for fruitful discussions. This work is supported by Provincia Autonoma di Trento.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Lamporesi, G., Donadello, S., Serafini, S. et al. Spontaneous creation of Kibble–Zurek solitons in a Bose–Einstein condensate. Nature Phys 9, 656–660 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys2734
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