Sudden quantum quenches in the presence of frustration or background synthetic gauge fields: Probing equilibrium currents of ultracold atoms in an optical lattice
Bosons and fermions, in the presence of frustration or background gauge fields, can form manybody ground states which support equilibrium 'charge' or 'spin' currents. Motivated by the experimental creation of frustration or artificial gauge fields in ultracold atomic systems, we propose a general scheme by which making a sudden anisotropic quench of the atom tunneling across the lattice and tracking the ensuing density modulations provides a powerful and gauge invariant route to visualizing diverse equilibrium current patterns. Using illustrative examples of trapped superfluid Bose and normal Fermi systems in the presence of artificial magnetic fluxes on square lattices, and frustrated bosons in a triangular lattice, we show that this scheme to probe equilibrium bulk current order works independent of particle statistics. We also show that such quenches can detect chiral edge currents in gapped topological states, such as quantum Hall or quantum spin Hall insulators.