Research Fellows Directory
Dr Robert Smith MSci, PhD
University of Cambridge
My research involves using cold atomic gases to study the fascinating physics that emerges when many mutually interacting particles enter the quantum regime. At room temperature, for most purposes, a gas of atoms can be treated like a bunch of particles which bounce off one another like marbles. However, if we cool the atoms to a millionth of a degree above absolute zero they slow-down from the speed of a plane to that of a snail and quantum effects begin to take over. The advantage of such systems is that atomic gases can be manipulated using tools such as lasers and magnetic fields in a highly controlled environment allowing careful studies of many-body quantum phenomena.
In the past year, one of the phenomena we have used such an ultracold gas to study is turbulence. Turbulence, which is characterised by excitations on many different length-scales, has fascinated scientists for centuries (Leonardo Da-Vinci studied it in the 15th Century). However, the interplay of these many different length-scales makes understanding turbulence hard and in many cases a quantitative understanding is still lacking. We have studied turbulence in an ultracold quantum gas of Rubidium atoms that that is amenable to a theoretical description on all relevant length-scales. We observed a central feature of turbulence, the cascade of energy from large to small scales and were able to reproduce our experimental findings with theoretical simulations. Our experiments thus establish an exciting new experimental platform which will allow us to deepen our understanding of turbulence.