Fei Zhou


Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Topological quantum phase transitions and topological quantum criticality in superfluids and superconductors (2021)

Superfluids and superconductors can be either fully gapped or gapless with nodal structures in momentum space. Both the gapped and nodal phases can be topologically protected and possess nontrivial topological invariants. Topological quantum phase transitions exist at zero temperature between different gapped phases or between gapped and nodal phases. These phase transitions can be driven by chemical potential and/or spin exchange fields. The two phases separated by the phase transition can have the same local order but differ in global topology. Thus, these topological quantum phase transitions cannot be described by the Landau paradigm of symmetry breaking. Although some aspects of these transitions, such as the change of topological invariants and gapless boundary states, have been discussed before, a complete theory of these transitions has yet to be developed. In this dissertation, we construct effective field theories to study the universality and thermodynamic signatures of these transitions. We find four different universality classes in superfluids and superconductors. Certain thermodynamic quantities, such as compressibility or spin susceptibility, change non-analytically across the transitions. For certain time-reversal symmetry breaking fields that lead to bulk phase transitions, there also exist topological phase transitions on the surface. All the topological phase transitions studied in this dissertation only exist at zero temperature. At finite temperature, different states are connected by smooth crossovers. There exists a quantum critical region at finite temperature near the quantum critical point (QCP). In this quantum critical region, thermodynamic quantities have universal scaling dependence on temperature dictated by the universality class of the QCP. We argue that these scaling properties can be used to probe and differentiate these QCPs. These bulk and surface topological quantum phase transitions are discussed in various concrete models, such as chiral and time-reversal invariant p-wave superfluids, topological superconductors of emergent Dirac fermions, and topological superconducting model of CuₓBi₂Se₃.

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Scale symmetry and the non-equilibrium quantum dynamics of ultra-cold atomic gases (2019)

The study of the quantum dynamics of ultra-cold atomic gases has become a forefront of atomic research. Experiments studying dynamics have become routine in laboratories, and a plethora of phenomena have been studied. Theoretically, however, the situation is often intractable unless one resorts to numerical or semiclassical calculations. In this thesis we apply the symmetry associated with scale invariance to study the dynamics of atomic gases, and discuss the implications of this symmetry on the full quantum dynamics. In particular we study the time evolution of an expanding two-dimensional Bose gas with attractive contact interactions, and the three-dimensional Fermi gas at unitarity. To do this we employ a quantum variational approach and exact symmetry arguments. It is shown that the time evolution due to a scale invariant Hamiltonian produces an emergent conformal symmetry. This emergent conformal symmetry has implications on the time evolution of an expanding quantum gas. In addition, we examine the effects of broken scale symmetry on the expansion dynamics. To do this, we develop a non-perturbative formalism that classifies the possible dynamics that can occur. This formalism is then applied to two systems, an ensemble of two-body systems, and for the compressional and elliptic flow of a unitary Fermi gas, both in three spatial dimensions.

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Nature of Bose Gases Near Feshbach Resonance: The Interplay Between Few-Body and Many-Body Physics (2014)

In this thesis, we investigated the physics of two- and three-dimensional ultra cold Bose gases in the strongly interacting regime at zero temperature. This regime can be experimentally accessed using a Feshbach resonance. We applied a self-consistent diagrammatic approach to determine the chemical potential of three-dimensional Bose gases for a wide range of interaction values. We showed that such strongly interacting Bose gases become unstable towards the formation of molecules at a finite positive scattering length. In fact, the interaction between atoms becomes effectively attractive and the system looses its metastability before reaching the unitary limit. We also found that such systems are nearly fermionized close to the instability point. Near this critical point, the chemical potential reaches a maximum and the contribution to the system energy due to three-body forces is estimated to be only a few percent. We also studied the same system using a self-consistent renormalization group method. This approach confirms the existence of an instability point towards the formation of molecules as well as fermionization. We showed that the instability and accompanying maximum are precursors of the sign change of the effective two-body interaction strength from repulsive to attractive near resonance. In addition, we examined the physics of two-dimensional Bose gases near resonance using a similar self-consistent diagrammatic approach as the one introduced for three-dimensional Bose gases. We demonstrated that a competition between three-body attractive interactions and two-body repulsive forces results in the chemical potential of two-dimensional Bose gases to exhibit a maximum at a critical scattering length beyond which these quantum gases possess a negative compressibility. For larger scattering lengths, the increasingly prominent role played by three-body attractive interactions leads to an onset instability at a second critical value. The three-body effects studied for these systems are universal, fully characterized by the effective two-dimensional scattering length and are, in comparison to the three-dimensional case, independent of three-body ultraviolet physics.

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Fluctuation Driven Phenomena in Ultracold Spinor Bose Gas (2010)

In this thesis, we have investigated several fluctuation-driven phenomena in ultracold spinor Bose gases.In Bose-Einstein condensates of hyperfine spin-two (F=2) atoms, it is shown that zero-point quantum fluctuations completely lift the accidental continuous degeneracy in quantum spin nematic phases predicted by mean field analysis, and these fluctuations select out two distinct spin nematic states with higher symmetries.It is further shown that fluctuations can drive a novel type of coherent spin dynamics which is very sensitive to the variation of quantum fluctuations controlled by magnetic fields or potential depths in optical lattices.These results have indicated fundamental limitations of precision measurements based on mean field theories.In addition, fluctuation-driven coherent spin dynamics studied here is a promising tool to probe correlated fluctuations in many body systems.In another system -- a two-dimension superfluid of spin-one (F=1) Na²³ atoms -- we have investigated spin correlations associated with half quantum vortices.It is shown that when cold atoms become superfluid below a critical temperature a unique nonlocal topological order emerges simultaneously due to fluctuations in low dimensional systems.Our simulation have indicated that there exists a nonlocal softened pi-spin disclination structure associated with a half-quantum vortex although spin correlations are short ranged.We have also estimated fluctuation-dependent critical frequencies for half-quantum vortex nucleation in rotating optical traps.These results indicate that the strongly fluctuating ultracold spinor system is a promising candidate for studying topological orders that are the focus of many other fields.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Fermion doubling in condensed matter physics: simulating a weyl fermion on a lattice (2022)

It is complicated to promote a continuum quantum theory with fermions to a lattice. This problem is caused by an unexpected appearance of extra states in the lattice theory - the fermion doubling problem. Nielsen and Ninomiya proved in 1981 that under certain conditions, it is actually impossible to find a lattice that simulates a single Weyl fermion. We realize that one of the crucial assumptions in their proof is the conservation of electric charge - a condition which is not held in topological superconductors. A common toy model for topological superconductors is the one-dimensional Kitaev wire. Thus, we propose a similar two-band three-dimensional lattice that has a single Weyl fermion in the low-energy. We find this effective theory by combining the degrees of freedom around the nodal points and then integrating out the extra degrees of freedom using the Schrieffer-Wolff transformation.

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Renormalization approach to bound state energy computation for two ultracold atoms in an optical lattice (2012)

In experiments with ultra-cold gases, two alkali atoms, that interact with repulsive or attractive potentials and are confined to an optical lattice, can form bound states. In order to compute the energy of such states formed by atoms in the lowest Bloch band, one needs to take into account the intra-band corrections arising from contributions by higher Bloch bands. As it is hard to implement, known calculations tend to neglect them altogether thus setting up a limit for the precision of such computations. To address the problem we apply an approach that uses renormalization-group equations for an effective potential we introduce. It allows for the expression of the bound state energy in terms of the free-space interaction scattering length and parameters of confining potentials. Expressions for bound state energies in 1D, 2D and 3D optical lattices are reported. We show that the method we use can be easily tailored to various cases of atoms confined by external fields of other geometries. A known result for atoms confined to a quasi-2D system is reproduced as an example. Universality of the approach makes it a useful tool for such class of problems.

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