Volume 83, Number 5, September 2008
Article Number 54002
Number of page(s) 6
Section Electromagnetism, Optics, Acoustics, Heat Transfer, Classical Mechanics, and Fluid Dynamics
Published online 28 August 2008
EPL, 83 (2008) 54002
DOI: 10.1209/0295-5075/83/54002

Atomic Zitterbewegung

M. Merkl1, F. E. Zimmer1, G. Juzeliunas2 and P. Öhberg1

1  SUPA, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University - Edinburgh EH14 4AS, UK, EU
2  Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy of Vilnius University - A. Gostauto 12, 01108 Vilnius, Lithuania, EU

received 14 April 2008; accepted in final form 16 July 2008; published September 2008
published online 28 August 2008

Ultracold atoms which are subject to ultra-relativistic dynamics are investigated. By using optically induced gauge potentials we show that the dynamics of the atoms is governed by a Dirac-type equation. To illustrate this we study the trembling motion of the centre of mass for an effective two-level system, historically called Zitterbewegung. Its origin is described in detail, where in particular the role of the finite width of the atomic wave packets is seen to induce a damping of both the centre of mass dynamics and the dynamics of the populations of the two levels.

42.50.Gy - Effects of atomic coherence on propagation, absorption, and amplification of light; electromagnetically induced transparency and absorption.
03.75.-b - Matter waves.
37.10.De - Atom cooling methods.

© EPLA 2008