Abstract

A classical collective behavior is observed in the spatial distributions of a cloud of optically trapped neutral atoms. They include extended uniform-density ellipsoids, rings of atoms around a small central ball, and clumps of atoms orbiting a central core. The distributions depend sensitively on the number of atoms and the alignment of the laser beams. Abrupt bistable transitions between different distributions are seen. This system is studied in detail, and much of this behavior can be explained by the incorporation of long-range interactions between the atoms in the equation of equilibrium. It is shown how attenuation and multiple scattering of the incident photons lead to these interactions.

© 1991 Optical Society of America

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