Vortex and half-vortex dynamics in a nonlinear spinor quantum fluid

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Science Advances  04 Dec 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 11, e1500807
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500807

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Vortices are archetypal objects that recur in the universe across the scale of complexity, from subatomic particles to galaxies and black holes. Their appearance is connected with spontaneous symmetry breaking and phase transitions. In Bose-Einstein condensates and superfluids, vortices are both point-like and quantized quasiparticles. We use a two-dimensional (2D) fluid of polaritons, bosonic particles constituted by hybrid photonic and electronic oscillations, to study quantum vortex dynamics. Polaritons benefit from easiness of wave function phase detection, a spinor nature sustaining half-integer vorticity, strong nonlinearity, and tuning of the background disorder. We can directly generate by resonant pulsed excitations a polariton condensate carrying either a full or half-integer vortex as initial condition and follow their coherent evolution using ultrafast imaging on the picosecond scale. The observations highlight a rich phenomenology, such as the spiraling of the half-vortex and the joint path of the twin charges of a full vortex, until the moment of their splitting. Furthermore, we observe the ordered branching into newly generated secondary couples, associated with the breaking of radial and azimuthal symmetries. This allows us to devise the interplay of nonlinearity and sample disorder in shaping the fluid and driving the vortex dynamics. In addition, our observations suggest that phase singularities may be seen as fundamental particles whose quantized events span from pair creation and recombination to 2D+t topological vortex strings.

  • qunatum vortices
  • topological excitations
  • nonlinearity
  • Bose Einstein condensates
  • Polaritons

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