It is generally assumed that a condensate of paired fermions at equilibrium is characterized by a macroscopic wavefunction with a well-defined, immutable phase. In reality, all systems have a finite size and are prepared at non-zero temperature; the condensate has then a finite coherence time, even when the system is isolated in its evolution and the particle number N is fixed. The loss of phase memory is due to interactions of the condensate with the excited modes that constitute a dephasing environment. This fundamental effect, crucial for applications using the condensate of pairs' macroscopic coherence, was scarcely studied. We link the coherence time to the condensate phase dynamics, and we show with a microscopic theory that the time derivative of the condensate phase operator θˆ0 is proportional to a chemical potential operator that we construct including both the pair-breaking and pair-motion excitation branches. In a single realization of energy E, θˆ0 evolves at long times as −2μmc(E)t/ħ, where μmc(E) is the microcanonical chemical potential; energy fluctuations from one realization to the other then lead to a ballistic spreading of the phase and to a Gaussian decay of the temporal coherence function with a characteristic time ∝N1/2. In the absence of energy fluctuations, the coherence time scales as N due to the diffusive motion of θˆ0. We propose a method to measure the coherence time with ultracold atoms, which we predict to be tens of milliseconds for the canonical ensemble unitary Fermi gas.
Kurkjian, H., Castin, Y., & Sinatra, A. (2016, August 1). Thermal blurring of a coherent Fermi gas. Comptes Rendus Physique. Elsevier Masson SAS. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crhy.2016.02.005