Quantum quenches in the many-body localized phase

Maksym Serbyn, Z. Papić, D. A. Abanin

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153 Scopus citations


Many-body localized (MBL) systems are characterized by the absence of transport and thermalization and, therefore, cannot be described by conventional statistical mechanics. In this paper, using analytic arguments and numerical simulations, we study the behavior of local observables in an isolated MBL system following a quantum quench. For the case of a global quench, we find that the local observables reach stationary, highly nonthermal values at long times as a result of slow dephasing characteristic of the MBL phase. These stationary values retain the local memory of the initial state due to the existence of local integrals of motion in the MBL phase. The temporal fluctuations around stationary values exhibit universal power-law decay in time, with an exponent set by the localization length and the diagonal entropy of the initial state. Such a power-law decay holds for any local observable and is related to the logarithmic in time growth of entanglement in the MBL phase. This behavior distinguishes the MBL phase from both the Anderson insulator (where no stationary state is reached) and from the ergodic phase (where relaxation is expected to be exponential). For the case of a local quench, we also find a power-law approach of local observables to their stationary values when the system is prepared in a mixed state. Quench protocols considered in this paper can be naturally implemented in systems of ultracold atoms in disordered optical lattices, and the behavior of local observables provides a direct experimental signature of many-body localization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number174302
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number17
StatePublished - Nov 6 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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