A paper presents a theoretical study of shock waves in a trapped Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).

The mathematical model of the BEC in this study is a nonlinear Schroedinger equation (NLSE) in which (1) the role of the wave function of a single particle in the traditional Schroedinger equation is played by a space- and time-dependent complex order parameter ?(x,t) proportional to the square root of the density of atoms and (2) the atoms engage in a repulsive interaction characterized by a potential proportional to | ?(x,t)|2. Equations that describe macroscopic perturbations of the BEC at zero temperature are derived from the NLSE and simplifying assumptions are made, leading to equations for the propagation of sound waves and the transformation of sound waves into shock waves. Equations for the speeds of shock waves and the relationships between jumps of velocity and density across shock fronts are derived. Similarities and differences between this theory and the classical theory of sound waves and shocks in ordinary gases are noted. The present theory is illustrated by solving the equations for the example of a shock wave propagating in a cigar-shaped BEC.

This work was done by Igor Kulikov and Michail Zak of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Physical Sciences category.


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Shock Waves in a Bose-Einstein Condensate

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This article first appeared in the June, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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