Condensed Matter Theory

Martin Holthaus: Bloch oscillations and Zener breakdown in an optical lattice

Author(s): Martin Holthaus

Bloch oscillations and Zener breakdown in an optical lattice

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J. Opt. B: Quantum Semiclass. Opt. 2 (October 2000) 589-604, IOP

Bloch-Zener dynamics, weak-binding approximation, adiabatic theorem, optical lattices, Bose-Einstein condensates, mean-field approximation

We study the dynamics of ultracold atoms in an optical lattice under constant bias. After recapitulating the ideas underlying Bloch oscillations and Zener's formula for interband transitions, the Bloch-Zener scenario is tested by means of accurate numerical solutions to the time-dependent Schroedinger equation. It is shown how two shortcomings of the traditional Zener formula can be removed: the common weak-binding approximation can be circumvented by combining Kohn's insight into the structure of complex energy bands with the Dykhne-Davis-Pechukas description of transitions in terms of adiabatic excursions on analytically continued eigenvalue surfaces, and a usually neglected Stokes phenomenon comes into play when accounting for the finite width of the Brillouin zone. Treating Bose-Einstein condensates in optical lattices within the standard mean-field approximation at zero temperature, the ideal Bloch-Zener scenario turns out to be remarkably stable against the condensate's nonlinear self-interaction. Yet, under appropriate conditions a Bloch-oscillating Gross-Pitaevskii wavepacket reveals characteristic signatures of that nonlinearity, such as sudden phase jumps, slight shifts of the oscillation frequency or non-classical breathing modes. It is suggested that such experimentally detectable signatures will play an important role in future high-precision experiments aiming at the exploration of many-body dynamics in periodic potentials with condensates in optical lattices.

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