Exploring quantum soft matter with ultracold atoms
Laser-cooled and trapped gases of neutral atoms can serve as versatile testbeds for exploring the organizing principles of quantum matter. Though recent experiments can access the strongly correlated physics of gases and insulators, quantum realizations of everyday soft matter---glasses and liquid crystals that lie intermediate between canonical examples of order (crystals) and disorder (gases)---have yet to be created using ultracold atoms. My group aims to elucidate the interplay between superfluidity, crystallinity, and magnetism in quantum soft matter using novel techniques developed to: 1) realize quantum dipolar gases for exploring quantum liquid crystal physics; 2) manipulate ultracold atoms near cryogenic surfaces for high-resolution, high-sensitivity imaging of transport in, e.g., unconventional superconductors and topological insulators; 3) realize supersmectic, superglass, and spin glass phases in a many-body, multimode cavity QED context. As a step forward, we recently created the first quantum degenerate dipolar Fermi gas, observing a signature of universal dipolar scattering, as well as a strongly dipolar Bose-Einstein condensate by laser cooling and trapping the highly complex and most magnetic element, dysprosium.