We characterize the early stages of the approach to equilibrium in isolated quantum systems through the evolution of the entanglement spectrum. We find that the entanglement spectrum of a subsystem evolves with three distinct timescales. First, on an o(1) timescale, independent of system or subsystem size and the details of the dynamics, the entanglement spectrum develops nearest-neighbor level repulsion. The second timescale sets in when the light cone has traversed the subsystem. Between these two times, the density of states of the reduced density matrix takes a universal, scale-free 1/f form; thus, random-matrix theory captures the local statistics of the entanglement spectrum but not its global structure. The third time scale is that on which the entanglement saturates; this occurs well after the light cone traverses the subsystem. Between the second and third times, the entanglement spectrum compresses to its thermal Marchenko-Pastur form. These features hold for chaotic Hamiltonian and Floquet dynamics as well as a range of quantum circuit models.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Physics and Astronomy