Excitations of quantum gases in optical lattices
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This thesis describes experiments that studied the excitations of an ultra-cold atomic Rb gas in an optical lattice using Bragg spectroscopy. A Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) of 87Rb was formed in a cloverleaf trap. An optical lattice of cubic symmetry, formed by the interference of six laser beams, was superimposed on the Rb BEC and turned on adiabatically. Such a system is well described by the Bose-Hubbard model, which predicts a quantum phase transition from a superfluid to a Mott insulator state at a critical lattice depth. In the first experiment, we studied the superfluid regime. The superfluid admits sound waves as phonon excitations. In two photon Bragg spectroscopy two laser beams intersecting at angle on the condensate create such excitations. The excitation spectrum of BEC was measured in a three dimensional optical lattice as a function of lattice strength. In the second experiment we studied the excitation spectrum of the Mott insulator. The lowest energy excitations in such a system are particlehole excitations. These correspond to the hopping of atoms from one lattice site to another. The insulating phase is characterized by a gap in the excitation spectrum and we measured this particle-hole gap by Bragg spectroscopy. The precise nature of our measurement allowed us to study the opening of the excitation gap that has previously eluded experimental verification.