Bose-Einstein condensation of exciton polaritons
Phase transitions to quantum condensed phases - such as Bose - Einstein condensation (BEC), superfluidity, and superconductivity - have long fascinated scientists, as they bring pure quantum effects to a macroscopic scale. BEC has, for example, famously been demonstrated in dilute atom gas of rubidium atoms at temperatures below 200 nanokelvin. Much effort has been devoted to finding a solid-state system in which BEC can take place. Promising candidate systems are semiconductor microcavities, in which photons are confined and strongly coupled to electronic excitations, leading to the creation of exciton polaritons. These bosonic quasi-particles are 10 9 times lighter than rubidium atoms, thus theoretically permitting BEC to occur at standard cryogenic temperatures. Here we detail a comprehensive set of experiments giving compelling evidence for BEC of polaritons. Above a critical density, we observe massive occupation of the ground state developing from a polariton gas at thermal equilibrium at 19 K, an increase of temporal coherence, and the build-up of long-range spatial coherence and linear polarization, all of which indicate the spontaneous onset of a macroscopic quantum phase.