Exotic Superfluidity in Imbalanced Fermi Mixtures

K.B. Gubbels

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


We consider ultracold imbalanced Fermi gases with strong attractive interactions, for which Cooper-pair formation plays an important role. The two-component mixtures consist either of identical fermionic atoms in two different hyperfine states, or of two different atomic species. In both cases, the number of atoms for each component is allowed to be different, leading to a spin imbalance or a polarization. In the second case, the two different species also give rise to a mass imbalance for the particles. Imbalanced Fermi mixtures play a fundamental role in condensed-matter, nuclear and astroparticle physics. Experimentally, the atomic mixtures are made strongly interacting with the use of two-channel Feshbach resonances. We start out by treating these in more detail. We review the relevant scattering theory, and apply it to the well-studied case of resonant s-wave collisions with zero angular momentum. Furthermore, we discuss the less-studied case of p-wave collisions with nonzero angular momentum, and the inhomogeneous case due to a trapping potential. Having discussed the two-body physics, we turn to the many-body physics. The pioneering experimental studies of Cooper pairing in lithium-6 mixtures with a spin imbalance were performed by Zwierlein et al. [Science 311, 492 (2006)] and Partridge et al. [Science 311, 503 (2006)]. We study the mean-field theory for the polarized Fermi mixture to obtain a qualitative understanding of these experiments. In the unitarity limit, where the scattering length of the interatomic interaction diverges, the theory gives rise to two exotic superfluid phases that are absent in the balanced mixture. These are the gapless superfluid Sarma phase and the phase-separated phase. By using renormalization group techniques to account for the effects of strong interactions, we obtain also quantitative agreement with Monte-Carlo calculations and experiments. We then generalize our knowledge of the solely spin-imbalanced mixture to the mass-imbalanced case, where in particular the mixture consisting of lithium-6 and potassium-40 is experimentally promising. We study the mean-field phase diagram for this mixture in the unitarity limit, where we not only find phase separation and Sarma superfluidity, but also a Lifshitz point. The latter signals an instability towards a supersolid phase. We also include the effects of fluctuations, which do not alter the topology of the phase diagram. However, fluctuation effects lower the critical temperatures with an experimentally relevant factor of three. Finally, we study superfluidity in a fully polarized gas of potassium-40 atoms near a p-wave Feshbach resonance. In particular, we consider coherent Josephson oscillations between the superfluid components in the two channels of the resonance, whose frequencies contain a clear signature of the quantum phase transition that occurs as a function of applied magnetic field.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Stoof, Henk, Primary supervisor
Award date13 Jan 2010
Print ISBNs978-90-3935267-0
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2010

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