Research ArticlePHYSICS

Observation of generalized Kibble-Zurek mechanism across a first-order quantum phase transition in a spinor condensate

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Science Advances  22 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 21, eaba7292
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba7292

Abstract

The Kibble-Zurek mechanism provides a unified theory to describe the universal scaling laws in the dynamics when a system is driven through a second-order quantum phase transition. However, for first-order quantum phase transitions, the Kibble-Zurek mechanism is usually not applicable. Here, we experimentally demonstrate and theoretically analyze a power-law scaling in the dynamics of a spin-1 condensate across a first-order quantum phase transition when a system is slowly driven from a polar phase to an antiferromagnetic phase. We show that this power-law scaling can be described by a generalized Kibble-Zurek mechanism. Furthermore, by experimentally measuring the spin population, we show the power-law scaling of the temporal onset of spin excitations with respect to the quench rate, which agrees well with our numerical simulation results. Our results open the door for further exploring the generalized Kibble-Zurek mechanism to understand the dynamics across first-order quantum phase transitions.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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