Kibble-Zurek problem: Universality and the scaling limit

Anushya Chandran, Amir Erez, Steven S. Gubser, S. L. Sondhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Near a critical point, the equilibrium relaxation time of a system diverges and any change of control/thermodynamic parameters leads to nonequilibrium behavior. The Kibble-Zurek problem is to determine the dynamical evolution of the system parametrically close to its critical point when the change is parametrically slow. The nonequilibrium behavior in this limit is controlled entirely by the critical point and the details of the trajectory of the system in parameter space (the protocol) close to the critical point. Together, they define a universality class consisting of critical exponents, discussed in the seminal work by Kibble and Zurek, and scaling functions for physical quantities, which have not been discussed hitherto. In this article, we give an extended and pedagogical discussion of the universal content in the Kibble-Zurek problem. We formally define a scaling limit for physical quantities near classical and quantum transitions for different sets of protocols. We report computations of a few scaling functions in model Gaussian and large-N problems and prove their universality with respect to protocol choice. We also introduce a protocol in which the critical point is approached asymptotically at late times with the system marginally out of equilibrium, wherein logarithmic violations to scaling and anomalous dimensions occur even in the simple Gaussian problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number064304
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 20 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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