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Jan Gelhausen, Michael Buchhold, Achim Rosch, Philipp Strack
SciPost Phys. 1, 004 (2016) · published 23 October 2016
The fields of quantum simulation with cold atoms  and quantum optics  are currently being merged. In a set of recent pathbreaking experiments with atoms in optical cavities [3,4] lattice quantum many-body systems with both, a short-range interaction and a strong interaction potential of infinite range -mediated by a quantized optical light field- were realized. A theoretical modelling of these systems faces considerable complexity at the interface of: (i) spontaneous symmetry-breaking and emergent phases of interacting many-body systems with a large number of atoms $N\rightarrow\infty$, (ii) quantum optics and the dynamics of fluctuating light fields, and (iii) non-equilibrium physics of driven, open quantum systems. Here we propose what is possibly the simplest, quantum-optical magnet with competing short- and long-range interactions, in which all three elements can be analyzed comprehensively: a Rydberg-dressed spin lattice  coherently coupled to a single photon mode. Solving a set of coupled even-odd sublattice Master equations for atomic spin and photon mean-field amplitudes, we find three key results. (R1): Superradiance and a coherent photon field can coexist with spontaneously broken magnetic translation symmetry. The latter is induced by the short-range nearest-neighbor interaction from weakly admixed Rydberg levels. (R2): This broken even-odd sublattice symmetry leaves its imprint in the light via a novel peak in the cavity spectrum beyond the conventional polariton modes. (R3): The combined effect of atomic spontaneous emission, drive, and interactions can lead to phases with anomalous photon number oscillations. Extensions of our work include nano-photonic crystals coupled to interacting atoms and multi-mode photon dynamics in Rydberg systems.