Self-organization of atoms in a cavity field: Threshold, bistability, and scaling laws

J. K. Asbóth, P. Domokos, H. Ritsch, A. Vukics

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96 Citations (Scopus)


We present a detailed study of the spatial self-organization of laser-driven atoms in an optical cavity, an effect predicted on the basis of numerical simulations [P. Domokos and H. Ritsch, Phys. Rev. Lett. 89, 253003 (2002)] and observed experimentally [A. T. Black, Phys. Rev. Lett. 91, 203001 (2003)]. Above a threshold in the driving laser intensity, from a uniform distribution the atoms evolve into one of two stable patterns that produce superradiant scattering into the cavity. We derive analytic formulas for the threshold and critical exponent of this phase transition from a mean-field approach. Numerical simulations of the microscopic dynamics reveal that, on a laboratory time scale, a hysteresis masks the mean-field behavior. Simple physical arguments explain this phenomenon and provide analytical expressions for the observable threshold. Above a certain density of the atoms a limited number of "defects" appear in the organized phase and influence the statistical properties of the system. The scaling of the cavity cooling mechanism and the phase-space density with the atom number is also studied.

Original languageEnglish
Article number053417
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics

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