Cold atoms in cavity-generated dynamical optical potentials

Helmut Ritsch, Peter Domokos, Ferdinand Brennecke, Tilman Esslinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

404 Citations (Scopus)


This is a review of state-of-the-art theory and experiment of the motion of cold and ultracold atoms coupled to the radiation field within a high-finesse optical resonator in the dispersive regime of the atom-field interaction with small internal excitation. The optical dipole force on the atoms together with the backaction of atomic motion onto the light field gives rise to a complex nonlinear coupled dynamics. As the resonator constitutes an open driven and damped system, the dynamics is nonconservative and in general enables cooling and confining the motion of polarizable particles. In addition the emitted cavity field allows for real-time monitoring of the particle's position with minimal perturbation up to subwavelength accuracy. For many-body systems, the resonator field mediates controllable long-range atom-atom interactions, which set the stage for collective phenomena. Besides the correlated motion of distant particles, one finds critical behavior and nonequilibrium phase transitions between states of different atomic order in conjunction with superradiant light scattering. Quantum-degenerate gases inside optical resonators can be used to emulate optomechanics as well as novel quantum phases such as supersolids and spin glasses. Nonequilibrium quantum phase transitions as predicted by, e.g., the Dicke Hamiltonian can be controlled and explored in real time via monitoring the cavity field. In combination with optical lattices, the cavity field can be utilized for nondestructive probing Hubbard physics and tailoring long-range interactions for ultracold quantum systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-601
Number of pages49
JournalReviews of Modern Physics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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