A Caltech Library Service

Signatures of self-organized criticality in an ultracold atomic gas

Helmrich, S. and Arias, A. and Lochead, G. and Wintermantel, T. M. and Buchhold, M. and Diehl, S. and Whitlock, S. (2020) Signatures of self-organized criticality in an ultracold atomic gas. Nature, 577 (7791). pp. 481-486. ISSN 0028-0836.

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
See Usage Policy.

[img] PDF (contains the Derivation of the effective Langevin equation) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 1: Further evidence for non-equilibrium universality) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.

[img] Image (JPEG) (Extended Data Fig. 2: Response of the SOC state to external perturbations) - Supplemental Material
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Self-organized criticality is an elegant explanation of how complex structures emerge and persist throughout nature, and why such structures often exhibit similar scale-invariant properties. Although self-organized criticality is sometimes captured by simple models that feature a critical point as an attractor for the dynamics, the connection to real-world systems is exceptionally hard to test quantitatively. Here we observe three key signatures of self-organized criticality in the dynamics of a driven–dissipative gas of ultracold potassium atoms: self-organization to a stationary state that is largely independent of the initial conditions; scale-invariance of the final density characterized by a unique scaling function; and large fluctuations of the number of excited atoms (avalanches) obeying a characteristic power-law distribution. This work establishes a well-controlled platform for investigating self-organization phenomena and non-equilibrium criticality, with experimental access to the underlying microscopic details of the system.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription ReadCube access - Article Paper Correction ReadCube access - Publisher Correction
Buchhold, M.0000-0001-5194-9388
Alternate Title:Observation of Self-Organised Criticality in an Ultracold Atomic Gas
Additional Information:© 2020 Springer Nature Limited. Received 25 June 2018; Accepted 23 October 2019; Published 15 January 2020. We acknowledge T. Ebbesen, G. Pupillo and M. Weidemüller for discussions. This work is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft under WH141/1-1 and is part of and supported by the DFG Collaborative Research Centre ‘SFB 1225 (ISOQUANT)’, the Heidelberg Center for Quantum Dynamics, the European Union H2020 FET Proactive project RySQ (grant number 640378) and the ‘Investissements d’Avenir’ programme through the Excellence Initiative of the University of Strasbourg (IdEx). M.B. acknowledges support from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. S.D. acknowledges support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through the Institutional Strategy of the University of Cologne within the German Excellence Initiative (ZUK 81) and the European Research Council via ERC grant agreement number 647434 (DOQS). S.W. was partially supported by the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study (USIAS), S.H. acknowledges support by the Carl Zeiss Foundation, A.A. and S.H. acknowledge support by the Heidelberg Graduate School for Fundamental Physics. Data availability: The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. Author Contributions: S.H., G.L. and S.W. devised the experiments; S.H., A.A., G.L. and T.M.W. acquired and analysed the data; M.B. and S.D. developed the theoretical description; all authors contributed to interpreting the results and writing of the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests.
Errata:In this Article, owing to errors in the production process, incorrect units were shown on the x axes of Fig. 1c and d. These values are dimensionless and therefore the x axes for Fig. 1c and d should have read ‘Total density, n₀’ and ‘Time, t’, respectively, instead of ‘Total density, n₀ (μm⁻³)’ and ‘Time, t (ms)’. In addition, in the main text, the statement ‘the fractal-like structures seen around t = 80 ms’ should have read ‘the fractal-like structures seen around t = 80 (in dimensionless units)’. These errors have been corrected online.
Group:UNSPECIFIED, Institute for Quantum Information and Matter
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)WH141/1-1
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)SFB 1225 (ISOQUANT)
Heidelberg Center for Quantum DynamicsUNSPECIFIED
European Research Council (ERC)640378
University of StrasbourgUNSPECIFIED
Alexander von Humboldt FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)ZUK 81
European Research Council (ERC)647434
Carl Zeiss FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Phase transitions and critical phenomena; Ultracold gases
Issue or Number:7791
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20200122-094408831
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Helmrich, S., Arias, A., Lochead, G. et al. Signatures of self-organized criticality in an ultracold atomic gas. Nature 577, 481–486 (2020).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:100834
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:23 Jan 2020 00:14
Last Modified:04 Jun 2020 10:14

Repository Staff Only: item control page