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Universal van der Waals physics for three cold atoms near Feshbach resonances

Nature Physics volume 10, pages 768773 (2014) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Experimental studies with cold atoms have advanced our understanding of three-body physics, historically a fundamental yet challenging problem. This is because atomic interactions can be precisely varied in strength using magnetically tunable scattering resonances known as Feshbach resonances. Collisions near the unitarity limit, where scattering is maximum, are known to have universal aspects that are independent of short-range chemical details. Away from this limit, many quantum states are expected to be active during a three-body collision, making the collisional observables practically unpredictable. Here we predict three-body ultracold scattering rates by properly building in the pairwise van der Waals interactions plus the multi-spin properties of a tunable Feshbach resonance state characterized by known dimensionless two-body parameters. Numerically solving the Schrödinger equation then quantitatively determines three-atom collisional properties at all interaction strengths without needing adjustable parameters to fit data. Consequently, we can define a new class of van der Waals universality for cold atom three-body phenomena.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the support of AFOSR-MURI award FA9550-09-1-0617, partial support from NSF Grant PHY11-25915, and thank C. H. Greene, J. P. D’Incao and J. Wang for discussions on the method and R. Grimm for providing their original data.

Author information

Author notes

    • Yujun Wang

    Present address: Department of Physics, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas 66506, USA.

Affiliations

  1. Joint Quantum Institute, University of Maryland and NIST, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA

    • Yujun Wang
    •  & Paul S. Julienne

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Contributions

Y.W. and P.S.J. both contributed equally to writing the manuscript. Y.W. planned the project in consultation with P.S.J. and implemented the numerical calculations.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paul S. Julienne.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3071

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