Physical Review Letters

“Chemistry of a Light Impurity in a Bose-Einstein Condensate”

May 04, 2022

Similar to an electron in a solid, an impurity in an atomic Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) is dressed by excitations from the medium, forming a polaron quasiparticle with modified properties. This impurity can also undergo chemical recombination with atoms from the BEC, a process resonantly enhanced when universal three-body Efimov bound states cross the continuum. To study the interplay between these phenomena, we use a Gaussian state variational method able to describe both Efimov physics and arbitrarily many excitations of the BEC. We show that the polaron cloud contributes to bound state formation, leading to a shift of the Efimov resonance to smaller interaction strengths. This shifted scattering resonance marks the onset of a polaronic instability towards the decay into large Efimov clusters and fast recombination, offering a remarkable example of chemistry in a quantum medium.

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