Strong correlations in bosons and fermions
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If there is a general theme to this thesis, it is the effects of strong correlations in both bosons and fermions. The bosonic system considered here consists of ultracold alkali atoms trapped by interfering lasers, so called optical lattices. Strong interactions, realized by increasing the depth of the lattice potential, or through the phenomenon of Feshbach resonances induce strong correlations amongst the atoms, rendering attempts to describe the systems in terms of single particle type physics unsuccessful. Of course strong correlations are not the exclusive domain of bosons, and also are not caused only by strong interactions. Other factors such as reduced dimensionality, in one-dimensional electron gases, or strong magnetic fields, in two-dimensional electron gases are known to induce strong correlations. In this thesis, we explore the manifestations of strong correlations in ultracold atoms in optical lattices and interacting electron gases. Optical lattices provide a near-perfect realization of lattice models, such as the bosonic Hubbard model (BHM) that have been formulated to study solid state systems. This follows from the absence of defects or impurities that usually plague real solid state systems. Another novel feature of optical lattices is the unprecedented control experimenters have in tuning the different lattice parameters, such as the lattice spacing and the intensity of the lasers. This control enables one to study the model Hamiltonians over a wide range of variables, such as the interaction strength between the atoms, thereby opening the door towards the observation of diverse and interesting phenomena. The BHM, and also its variants, predict various quantum phases, such as the strongly correlated Mott insulator (MI) phase that appears as a function of the parameter t/U, the ratio of the nearest neighbor hopping amplitude to the on-site interaction, which one varies experimentally over a wide range of values simply by switching the intensity of the lasers. But as always, even in these designer-made "solid state" systems, practical considerations introduce complications that blur the theoretical interpretation of experimental results, such as inhomogeneities in the lattice structure. The first part of this thesis presents a quantum theory of ultracold bosonic atoms in optical lattices capable of describing the properties of the various phases and the transitions between them. Its usefulness, compared to other approaches, we believe rests in its broad applicability and in the relative ease it handles the complications while producing quantitatively accurate results.