Ultracold gases far from equilibrium

EPJ ST 168, 89 (2009) Thomas Gasenzer

The European Physical Journal Special Topics


February 2009, Volume 168, Issue 1, pp 89-148

Ultracold atomic quantum gases belong to the most exciting challenges of modern physics. Their theoretical description has drawn much from (semi-) classical field equations. These mean-field approximations are in general reliable for dilute gases in which the atoms collide only rarely with each other, and for situations where the gas is not too far from thermal equilibrium. With present-day technology it is, however, possible to drive and observe a system far away from equilibrium. Functional quantum field theory provides powerful tools to achieve both, analytical understanding and numerical computability, also in higher dimensions, of far-from-equilibrium quantum many-body dynamics. In the article, an outline of these approaches is given, including methods based on the two-particle irreducible effective action as well as on renormalisation-group theory. Their relation to near-equilibrium kinetic theory is discussed, and the distinction between quantum and classical statistical fluctuations is shown to naturally emerge from the functional-integral description. Example applications to the evolution of an ultracold atomic Bose gas in one spatial dimension underline the power of the methods.