How to characterize the dynamics of cold atoms in non-dissipative optical lattices?

D. Hennequin, Ph. Verkerk

Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 368 2163-2177 (2010)

We examine here the classical dynamics of cold atoms in square optical lattices, i.e. lattices obtained with two orthogonal stationary plane waves. Contrary to many of the past studies in this domain, the potential here is time independent and non-dissipative. We show that, as a function of the experimental parameters, very different behaviours are obtained, both for the dynamics of atoms trapped inside individual sites and for atoms travelling between sites: inside the sites, chaos may be the main regime or, on the contrary, it may be negligible; outside the sites, chaos sometimes coexists with other regimes. We discuss the consequences of these differences on the macroscopic behaviour of the atoms in the lattice, and we propose experimental measurements able to characterize these dynamics and to distinguish between the different cases.