Abstract

A collection of ultracold atoms has an index of refraction that varies depending on the spatial density distribution of the gas. For many confined gases commonly found in ultracold atom experiments, there can be a substantial gradient in the spatial density distribution and hence the index of refraction. In addition, these gases can have a smaller spatial extent than that of the cross section of a laser beam that illuminates them. With a sufficient gradient in density under these conditions, the resulting index variation leads to frequency-dependent focusing or defocusing of incident near-resonant light as demonstrated by the calculations in this work. Nonintuitive intensity pattern formations result within the gas from the combination of refraction and diffraction of the incident light, including focusing effects that substantially increase the intensity of the light as compared to its incident value despite the nominally absorptive nature of the gas.

© 2018 Optical Society of America

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