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Direct Observation of Zitterbewegung in a Bose-Einstein condensate



Lindsay J. LeBlanc, Matthew Beeler, Karina Jimenez-Garcia, Abigail R. Perry, Seiji Sugawa, Ross Williams, Ian B. Spielman


Zitterbewegung, a force-free trembling motion first predicted for relativistic fermions like electrons, was an unexpected consequence of the Dirac equation's unification of quantum mechanics and special relativity. Though the oscillatory motion's large frequency and small amplitude have precluded its measurement with electrons, zitterbewegung is observable via quantum simulation. We engineered an environment for 87Rb Bose-Einstein condensates where the constituent atoms behaved like relativistic particles subject to the one-dimensional Dirac equation. With direct imaging, we observed the sub-micrometer trembling motion of these clouds, demonstrating the utility of neutral ultracold quantum gases for simulating Dirac particles.
New Journal of Physics


Bose-Einstein condensation, Dirac equation, quantum simulation, spin-orbit coupling, zitterbewegung


LeBlanc, L. , Beeler, M. , Jimenez-Garcia, K. , Perry, A. , Sugawa, S. , Williams, R. and Spielman, I. (2013), Direct Observation of Zitterbewegung in a Bose-Einstein condensate, New Journal of Physics, [online], (Accessed May 27, 2024)


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Created July 3, 2013, Updated June 2, 2021