Dynamics and transport at the threshold of many-body localization

Sarang Gopalakrishnan, S. A. Parameswaran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Many-body localization (MBL) describes a class of systems that do not approach thermal equilibrium under their intrinsic dynamics; MBL and conventional thermalizing systems form distinct dynamical phases of matter, separated by a phase transition at which equilibrium statistical mechanics breaks down. True many-body localization is known to occur only under certain stringent conditions for perfectly isolated one-dimensional systems, with Hamiltonians that have strictly short-range interactions and lack any continuous non-Abelian symmetries. However, in practice, even systems that are not strictly MBL can be nearly MBL, with equilibration rates that are far slower than their other intrinsic timescales; thus, anomalously slow relaxation occurs in a much broader class of systems than strict localization. In this review we address transport and dynamics in such nearly-MBL systems from a unified perspective. Our discussion covers various classes of such systems: (i) disordered and quasiperiodic systems on the thermal side of the MBL-thermal transition; (ii) systems that are strongly disordered, but obstructed from localizing because of symmetry, interaction range, or dimensionality; (iii) multiple-component systems, in which some components would in isolation be MBL but others are not; and finally (iv) driven systems whose dynamics lead to exponentially slow rates of heating to infinite temperature. A theme common to many of these problems is that they can be understood in terms of approximately localized degrees of freedom coupled to a heat bath (or baths) consisting of thermal degrees of freedom; however, this putative bath is itself nontrivial, being either small or very slowly relaxing. We discuss anomalous transport, diverging relaxation times, and other signatures of the proximity to MBL in these systems. We also survey recent theoretical and numerical methods that have been applied to study dynamics on either side of the MBL transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-62
Number of pages62
JournalPhysics Reports
StatePublished - May 30 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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