Slow Quantum Thermalization and Many-Body Revivals from Mixed Phase Space

A. A. Michailidis, C. J. Turner, Z. Papić, D. A. Abanin, M. Serbyn

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69 Scopus citations


The relaxation of few-body quantum systems can strongly depend on the initial state when the system's semiclassical phase space is mixed; i.e., regions of chaotic motion coexist with regular islands. In recent years, there has been much effort to understand the process of thermalization in strongly interacting quantum systems that often lack an obvious semiclassical limit. The time-dependent variational principle (TDVP) allows one to systematically derive an effective classical (nonlinear) dynamical system by projecting unitary many-body dynamics onto a manifold of weakly entangled variational states. We demonstrate that such dynamical systems generally possess mixed phase space. When TDVP errors are small, the mixed phase space leaves a footprint on the exact dynamics of the quantum model. For example, when the system is initialized in a state belonging to a stable periodic orbit or the surrounding regular region, it exhibits persistent many-body quantum revivals. As a proof of principle, we identify new types of "quantum many-body scars," i.e., initial states that lead to long-time oscillations in a model of interacting Rydberg atoms in one and two dimensions. Intriguingly, the initial states that give rise to most robust revivals are typically entangled states. On the other hand, even when TDVP errors are large, as in the thermalizing tilted-field Ising model, initializing the system in a regular region of phase space leads to a surprising slowdown of thermalization. Our work establishes TDVP as a method for identifying interacting quantum systems with anomalous dynamics in arbitrary dimensions. Moreover, the mixed phase space classical variational equations allow one to find slowly thermalizing initial conditions in interacting models. Our results shed light on a link between classical and quantum chaos, pointing toward possible extensions of the classical Kolmogorov-Arnold-Moser theorem to quantum systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number011055
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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