Supersolid formation in a quantum gas breaking a continuous translational symmetry

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The concept of a supersolid state combines the crystallization of a many-body system with dissipationless flow of the atoms from which it is built. This quantum phase requires the breaking of two continuous symmetries: the phase invariance of a superfluid and the continuous translational invariance to form the crystal1,2. Despite having been proposed for helium almost 50 years ago3,4, experimental verification of supersolidity remains elusive5,6. A variant with only discrete translational symmetry breaking on a preimposed lattice structure—the ‘lattice supersolid’7—has been realized, based on self-organization of a Bose–Einstein condensate8,9. However, lattice supersolids do not feature the continuous ground-state degeneracy that characterizes the supersolid state as originally proposed. Here we report the realization of a supersolid with continuous translational symmetry breaking along one direction in a quantum gas. The continuous symmetry that is broken emerges from two discrete spatial symmetries by symmetrically coupling a Bose–Einstein condensate to the modes of two optical cavities. We establish the phase coherence of the supersolid and find a high ground-state degeneracy by measuring the crystal position over many realizations through the light fields that leak from the cavities. These light fields are also used to monitor the position fluctuations in real time. Our concept provides a route to creating and studying glassy many-body systems with controllably lifted ground-state degeneracies, such as supersolids in the presence of disorder.

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