Direct observation of chiral currents and magnetic reflection in atomic flux lattices

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Science Advances  21 Apr 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 4, e1602685
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602685

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The prospect of studying topological matter with the precision and control of atomic physics has driven the development of many techniques for engineering artificial magnetic fields and spin-orbit interactions. Recently, the idea of introducing nontrivial topology through the use of internal (or external) atomic states as effective “synthetic dimensions” has garnered attraction for its versatility and possible immunity from heating. We engineer tunable gauge fields through the local control of tunneling phases in an effective two-dimensional manifold of discrete atomic momentum states. We demonstrate the ability to create homogeneous gauge fields of arbitrary value, directly imaging the site-resolved dynamics of induced chiral currents. Furthermore, we engineer the first inhomogeneous artificial gauge fields for cold atoms, observing the magnetic reflection of atoms incident upon a step-like variation of an artificial vector potential. These results open new possibilities for the study of topological phases and localization phenomena in atomic gases.

  • ultracold atoms
  • optical lattices
  • artificial gauge fields
  • Quantum simulation
  • synthetic dimensions

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