Ultracold quantum gases in optical lattices form almost ideal conditions to analyze the physics of strongly correlated quantum phases in periodic potentials. Such strongly correlated quantum phases are of fundamental interest in condensed matter physics, because they lie at the heart of topical quantum materials, such as high-Tc superconductors and quantum magnets, which pose a challenge to our basic understanding of interacting many-body systems. Quite generally, such strongly interacting quantum phases arise when the interaction energy between two particles dominates over the kinetic energy of the two particles. Such a regime can either be achieved by increasing the interaction strength between the atoms via Feshbach resonances or by decreasing the kinetic energy, such that eventually the interaction energy is the largest energy scale in the system. The latter can, for example, simply be achieved by increasing the optical lattice depth.
This chapter tries gives an introduction into the field of optical lattices and the physics of strongly interacting quantum phases. A prominent example hereof is the superfluid-to-Mott insulator transition, which transforms a weakly interacting quantum gas into a strongly correlated many body system. Dominating interactions between the particles are in fact crucial for the Mott insulator transition and also for the realization of controlled interaction-based quantum gates, of which several have been successfully realized experimentally.
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