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Superfluids and superfluid mixtures in atom traps

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Superfluidity has become a topic of active interest in the field of atom trap Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs). We motivate this line of research by placing the BEC developments against the general backdrop of the theory of superfluidity and by highlighting the advantages offered by the atom trap technology. We review the standard description of the BEC dynamics, as well as basic concepts of superfluidity and we present theoretical arguments for expecting the BECs to exhibit superfluid behaviour. In atom traps, as in condensed and nuclear matter, superfluidity can manifest itself in a manifold of guises. Moreover, some of its manifestations can even be undesirable, as we illustrate by the poignant example of sympathetic cooling with condensates. We also review recent experimental evidence for superfluid BEC behaviour and we suggest further experiments to probe superfluidity in atom traps. The low densities of the BECs allow optical imaging and imply that the relevant physics occurs on time and length scales that are much slower and larger than in the traditional 4He superfluid. Consequently, BEC experiments can study known superfluid phenomena and structures in a different and, perhaps, more detailed manner. In addition, the flexibility offered by existing techniques in atomic, molecular and optical physics is unprecedented in the field of low-temperature physics and suggests the prospect of creating superfluids of fundamentally novel structures. Finally, it is conceivable that new applications of superfluidity may arise from these studies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Mailstop B-268, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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