Spontaneous avalanche dephasing in large Rydberg ensembles
Thomas L. Boulier, Eric Magnan, Carlos Bracamontes, James Maslek, Elizabeth Goldschmidt, Jeremey Young, Alexey V. Gorshkov, Steven Rolston, James V. Porto
Strong dipole-exchange interactions due to spontaneously produced contaminant states can trigger rapid dephasing in many-body Rydberg ensembles [E. Goldschmidt et al., PRL 116, 113001 (2016)]. Such broadening has serious implications for many proposals to coherently use Rydberg interactions, particularly Rydberg dressing proposals. The dephasing arises as a runaway process where the production of the first contaminant atoms facilitates the creation of more contaminant atoms. Here we study the time dependence of this process with stroboscopic approaches. Using a pump-probe technique we create an excess pump Rydberg population, and probe its effect with a different probe Rydberg transition. We observe a reduced resonant pumping rate and an enhancement of the excitation on both sides of the transition as atoms are added to the pump state. We also observe a timescale for population growth significantly shorter than predicted by homogeneous mean-field models, as expected from a clustered growth mechanism where high-order correlations dominate the dynamics. These results support earlier works and confirm that the time scale for the onset of dephasing is reduced by a factor which scales as the inverse of the atom number. In addition, we discuss several approaches to minimize these effects of spontaneous broadening, including stroboscopic techniques and operating at cryogenic temperatures. It is challenging to avoid the unwanted broadening effects, but under some conditions they can be mitigated.