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Similarities between alkali-metal gases in optical lattices with noninteger occupation of the lattice sites and quantum crystals are explored. The analogy with the vacancy liquid (VL) provides an alternative explanation to the Mott transition for the recent experiment on the phase transition in the lattice. The VL can undergo Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) with Tc within experimental reach. Direct and vacancy-assisted mechanisms of the band motion for hyperfine impurities are discussed. A large concentration of vacancies can result in the spatial decomposition of the system into pure hyperfine components. Below the vacancy condensation the impurity component resembles 3He in 3He–He II mixtures.

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© 2003 The American Physical Society