Harmonically trapped two-atom systems: Interplay of short-range s -wave interaction and spin-orbit coupling

X. Y. Yin, S. Gopalakrishnan, D. Blume

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The coupling between the spin degrees of freedom and the orbital angular momentum has a profound effect on the properties of nuclei, atoms, and condensed-matter systems. Recently, synthetic gauge fields have been realized experimentally in neutral cold-atom systems, giving rise to a spin-orbit coupling term with "strength" kso. This paper investigates the interplay between the single-particle spin-orbit coupling term of Rashba type and the short-range two-body s-wave interaction for cold atoms under external confinement. Specifically, we consider two different harmonically trapped two-atom systems. The first system consists of an atom with spin-orbit coupling that interacts with a structureless particle through a short-range two-body potential. The second system consists of two atoms that both feel the spin-orbit coupling term and that interact through a short-range two-body potential. Treating the spin-orbit term perturbatively, we determine the correction to the ground-state energy for various generic parameter combinations. Selected excited states are also treated. An important aspect of our study is that the perturbative treatment is not limited to small s-wave scattering lengths but provides insights into the system behavior over a wide range of scattering lengths, including the strongly interacting unitary regime. We find that the interplay between the spin-orbit coupling term and the s-wave interaction generically enters, depending on the exact parameter combinations of the s-wave scattering lengths, at order kso2 or kso4 for the ground state and leads to a shift of the energy of either sign. While the absence of a term proportional to kso follows straightforwardly from the functional form of the spin-orbit coupling term, the absence of a term proportional to kso2 for certain parameter combinations is unexpected. The well-known fact that the spin-orbit coupling term couples the relative and center-of-mass degrees of freedom has interesting consequences for the trapped two-particle systems. For example, we find that, for certain parameter combinations, the spin-orbit coupling term turns sharp crossings into avoided crossings with an energy splitting proportional to kso. Our perturbative results are confirmed by numerical calculations that expand the eigenfunctions of the two-particle Hamiltonian in terms of basis functions that contain explicitly correlated Gaussians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number033606
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 6 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


Dive into the research topics of 'Harmonically trapped two-atom systems: Interplay of short-range s -wave interaction and spin-orbit coupling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this