|Location: Hörsaal A (1.3.14)
Time: Tuesday 29.06.2010, 14h c.t.
A chain of singly charged particles, confined by a harmonic potential, exhibits a sudden transition to a zigzag configuration when the radial potential reaches a critical value, depending on the particle number. This structural change is a phase transition of second order, whose order parameter is the crystal displacement from the chain axis. We study analytically the transition using Landau theory and find full agreement with numerical predictions. Our theory allows us to determine analytically the systemys behavior at the transition point. The non-equilibrium dynamics is then studied when the transverse trap frequency is quenched across the value at which the chain undergoes a continuous phase transition from a linear to a zigzag structure. An equation for the order parameter, corresponding to the transverse size of the zigzag structure, is determined when the vibrational motion is damped via laser cooling. The number of structural defects produced during a linear quench of the transverse trapping frequency is predicted and verified numerically. It is shown to obey the scaling predicted by the Kibble-Zurek mechanism, when extended to take into account the spatial inhomogeneities of the ion chain in a linear Paul trap.