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Physics Review A


Most of the literature on quantum vortices predicting various states of vortex matter in three dimensions at finite temperatures in quantum fluids is based on the assumption of an extended and homogeneous system. This is well known not to be the case in actual Bose-Einstein condensates in traps, which are finite systems with nonuniform density. This raises the question to what extent one can speak of different aggregate states of vortex matter (vortex lattices, liquids, and tensionless vortex tangles) in these systems. To address this point, in the present work we focus on the finite-size, boundaries and density inhomogeneity effects on thermal vortex matter in a Bose-Einstein condensate. To this end we perform Monte Carlo simulations on a model system describing trapped Bose-Einstein condensates. Throughout the paper, we draw on analogies with results for vortex matter obtained for extended systems. We also consider, for comparison, the cylindrical confinement geometry with uniform density profile from the center out to the edge of the trap. The trapping potential is taken to be generically of an anharmonic form in such a way as to interpolate between a harmonic trap and a cylindrical confinement geometry. It also allows for a dip in the density profile at the center. We find distinct thermal equilibrium properties of the vortex system as the qualitative characteristics of the trapping potential are varied. For a uniform cylindrical confinement geometry, we find a vortex lattice at the center of the trap as well as ringlike thermal fluctuations of the vortex system as the trap edge is approached. For a harmonic trap, we find a distinct region at the edge of the trap where the vortex lines appear to have lost their line tension. Due to the steep density gradient, this crosses directly over to a vortex-line lattice at the center of the trap at low temperatures. At higher temperatures, an intermediate tensionful vortex liquid may exist. For an anharmonic trap where the ground state condensate density features a local minimum at the center of the trap, we find a corresponding region which appears to feature a tensionless vortex-line liquid phase. This work suggests that, finiteness and intrinsic inhomogeneity of the system notwithstanding, one nonetheless can approximately invoke the notion of distinct aggregate states of vortex matter realized at certain length scales. This might be helpful, in particular, in the search for possible new states of vortex matter in Bose-Einstein condensates with multiple components and different symmetries.


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