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Gonzalez-Cuadra, D.; Dauphin, A.; Aidelsburger, M.; Lewenstein, M.; Bermudez, A. (2020): Rotor Jackiw-Rebbi Model: A Cold-Atom Approach to Chiral Symmetry Restoration and Charge Confinement. In: Prx Quantum, Vol. 1, No. 2, 020321
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Understanding the nature of confinement, as well as its relation with the spontaneous breaking of chiral symmetry, remains one of the long-standing questions in high-energy physics. The difficulty of this task stems from the limitations of current analytical and numerical techniques to address nonperturbative phenomena in non-Abelian gauge theories. In this work, we show how similar phenomena emerge in simpler models, and how these can be further investigated using state-of-the-art cold-atom quantum simulators. More specifically, we introduce the rotor Jackiw-Rebbi model, a (1 + 1)-dimensional quantum field theory where interactions between Dirac fermions are mediated by quantum rotors. Starting from a mixture of ultracold atoms in an optical lattice, we show how this quantum field theory emerges in the long-wavelength limit. For a wide and experimentally relevant parameter regime, the Dirac fermions acquire a dynamical mass via the spontaneous breakdown of chiral symmetry. We study the effect of both quantum and thermal fluctuations, and show how they lead to the phenomenon of chiral symmetry restoration. Moreover, we uncover a confinement-deconfinement quantum phase transition, where mesonlike fermions fractionalize into quarklike quasiparticles bound to topological solitons of the rotor field. The proliferation of these solitons at finite chemical potentials again serves to restore the chiral symmetry, yielding a clear analogy with the quark-gluon plasma in quantum chromodynamics, where the restored symmetry coexists with the deconfined fractional charges. Our results indicate how the interplay between these phenomena could be analyzed in more detail in realistic atomic experiments.