A quasi-one-dimensional system of trapped, repulsively interacting atoms (e.g., an ion chain) exhibits a structural phase transition from a linear chain to a zigzag structure, tuned by reducing the transverse trap potential or increasing the particle density. Since it is a one-dimensional transition, it takes place at zero temperature and therefore quantum fluctuations dominate. In Fishman it was shown that the system close to the linear-zigzag instability is described by a φ 4 model. We propose a mapping of the φ 4 field theory to the well-known Ising chain in a transverse field, which exhibits a quantum critical point. Based on this mapping, we estimate the quantum critical point in terms of the system parameters. This estimate gives the critical value of the transverse trap frequency for which the quantum phase transition occurs and which has a finite, measurable deviation from the critical point evaluated within the classical theory. A measurement is suggested for atomic systems which can probe the critical trap frequency at sufficiently low temperatures T. We focus in particular on a trapped-ion system and estimate the implied limitations on T and on the interparticle distance. We conclude that the experimental observation of the quantum critical behavior is, in principle, accessible. © 2011 American Physical Society.
|Journal||Physical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics|
|Publication status||Published - 14 Mar 2011|