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Between Localization and Ergodicity in Quantum Systems

December 7, 2015 - 11:00am
Boris Altshuler
Columbia University, New York

Strictly speaking the laws of the conventional Statistical Physics, in particular the Equipartition Postulate, apply only in the presence of a thermostat. For a long time this restriction did not look crucial for realistic systems. Recently there appeared two classes of quantum many-body systems with the coupling to the outside world that is (or is hoped to be) negligible: (1) cold quantum gases and (2) systems of qubits, which enjoy a continuous progress in their disentanglement from the environment. To describe such systems properly one should revisit the very foundations of the Statistical Mechanics. The first step in this direction was the development of the concept of Many-Body Localization (MBL) [1]:  the states of a many-body system can be localized in the Hilbert space resembling the celebrated Anderson Localization of single particle states in a random potential. Moreover, one-particle localization of the eigenfunctions of the Anderson tight-binding model (on-site disorder) on regular random graphs (RRG) strongly resembles a generic MBL.

MBL implies that the state of the system decoupled from the thermostat depends on the initial conditions: the time averaging does not result in equipartition distribution, the entropy never reaches its thermodynamic value i.e. the ergodicity is violated. Variations of e.g. temperature can delocalize many body states. However, the recovery of the equipartition is not likely to follow the delocalization immediately: numerical analysis of the RRG problem suggests that the extended states are multi-fractal at any finite disorder [2]. Moreover, regular (no disorder!) Josephson junction arrays (JJA) under the conditions that are feasible to implement and control experimentally demonstrate both MBL and non-ergodic behavior [3].


1.  D. Basko, I. Aleiner, and B. Altshuler, Ann. Phys. 321, 1126 (2006).

2. A. De LucaB.L. AltshulerV.E. Kravtsov, & A. Scardicchio, PRL 113, 046806, (2014)

3. M. Pino, B.L. Altshuler and L.B. Ioffe, arXiv:1501.03853, PNAS to be published.

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