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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: October 2009

1 - Overview and introduction

Summary

Since the dramatic discovery of Bose–Einstein condensation (BEC) in trapped atomic gases in 1995 (Anderson et al., 1995), there has been an explosion of theoretical and experimental research on the properties of Bose-condensed dilute gases. The first phase of this research was discussed in the influential review article by Dalfovo et al. (1999) and in the proceedings of the 1998 Varenna Summer School on BEC (Inguscio et al., 1999). More recently, this research has been well documented in two monographs, by Pethick and Smith (2008, second edition) and by Pitaevskii and Stringari (2003). Most of this research, both experimental and theoretical, has concentrated on the case of low temperatures (well below the BEC transition temperature, TBEC), where one is effectively dealing with a pure Bose condensate. The total fraction of noncondensate atoms in such experiments can be as small as 10% of the total number of atoms and, equally importantly, this low-density cloud of thermally excited atoms is spread over a much larger spatial region compared with the high-density condensate, which is localized at the centre of the trapping potential. Thus most studies of Bose-condensed gases at low temperatures have concentrated entirely on the condensate degree of freedom and its response to various perturbations. This region is well described by the famous Gross–Pitaevskii (GP) equation of motion for the condensate order parameter Φ(r, t). As shown by research since 1995, this pure condensate domain is very rich in physics.

The main goal of the present book, in contrast, is to describe the dynamics of dilute trapped atomic gases at finite temperatures such that the noncondensate atoms also play an important role.