Journal article Open Access

Collective behavior of optically trapped neutral atoms

Walker, Thad; Sesko, David; Wieman, Carl

We describe experiments that show collective behavior in clouds of optically trapped neutral atoms. This collective behavior is demonstrated in a variety of observed spatial distributions with abrupt bistable transitions between them. These distributions include stable rings of atoms around a small core and clumps of atoms rotating about the core. The size of the cloud grows rapidly as more atoms are loaded into it, implying a strong long-range repulsive force between the atoms. We show that a force arising from radiation trapping can explain much of this behavior.
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