Quantum emulation with ions trapped in optical lattices
The Quantum Emulation project uses trapped ions as building blocks to emulate complex quantum systems and study their behavior. Ions are trapped in micro-wells formed by an optical lattice thereby forming a chain of non-linear oscillators coupled through the Coulomb interaction. With this system, we plan to study the Frenkel-Kontorova model. When the optical forces are sufficiently strong, the ion string undergoes a phase transition from a sliding to a pinned phase. We are aiming to study this phase transition in both classical and quantum regimes. This dynamics can be used to explain such phenomena as dry friction, dislocations in crystals, glassy materials, arrays of Josephson junctions, epitaxial growth and others.
Aside from the phase transition itself, we plan to investigate the pinned phase in detail. In particular, we are interested in the energy transport as well as the thermalization within the ion chain.
The experiments on the Frenkel-Kontorova model are supported by the NSF grant "CAREER: Quantum simulation with strings of trapped ions" and a DOE SCG-fellowship.