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Observation of many-body localization of interacting fermions in a quasi-random optical lattice

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      Abstract

      We experimentally observe many-body localization of interacting fermions in a one-dimensional quasi-random optical lattice. We identify the many-body localization transition through the relaxation dynamics of an initially-prepared charge density wave. For sufficiently weak disorder the time evolution appears ergodic and thermalizing, erasing all remnants of the initial order. In contrast, above a critical disorder strength a significant portion of the initial ordering persists, thereby serving as an effective order parameter for localization. The stationary density wave order and the critical disorder value show a distinctive dependence on the interaction strength, in agreement with numerical simulations. We connect this dependence to the ubiquitous logarithmic growth of entanglement entropy characterizing the generic many-body localized phase.

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      Most cited references 54

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      Absence of Diffusion in Certain Random Lattices

       P W Anderson (1958)
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        A quantum Newton's cradle.

        It is a fundamental assumption of statistical mechanics that a closed system with many degrees of freedom ergodically samples all equal energy points in phase space. To understand the limits of this assumption, it is important to find and study systems that are not ergodic, and thus do not reach thermal equilibrium. A few complex systems have been proposed that are expected not to thermalize because their dynamics are integrable. Some nearly integrable systems of many particles have been studied numerically, and shown not to ergodically sample phase space. However, there has been no experimental demonstration of such a system with many degrees of freedom that does not approach thermal equilibrium. Here we report the preparation of out-of-equilibrium arrays of trapped one-dimensional (1D) Bose gases, each containing from 40 to 250 (87)Rb atoms, which do not noticeably equilibrate even after thousands of collisions. Our results are probably explainable by the well-known fact that a homogeneous 1D Bose gas with point-like collisional interactions is integrable. Until now, however, the time evolution of out-of-equilibrium 1D Bose gases has been a theoretically unsettled issue, as practical factors such as harmonic trapping and imperfectly point-like interactions may compromise integrability. The absence of damping in 1D Bose gases may lead to potential applications in force sensing and atom interferometry.
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          Thermalization and its mechanism for generic isolated quantum systems

          Time dynamics of isolated many-body quantum systems has long been an elusive subject. Very recently, however, meaningful experimental studies of the problem have finally become possible, stimulating theoretical interest as well. Progress in this field is perhaps most urgently needed in the foundations of quantum statistical mechanics. This is so because in generic isolated systems, one expects nonequilibrium dynamics on its own to result in thermalization: a relaxation to states where the values of macroscopic quantities are stationary, universal with respect to widely differing initial conditions, and predictable through the time-tested recipe of statistical mechanics. However, it is not obvious what feature of many-body quantum mechanics makes quantum thermalization possible, in a sense analogous to that in which dynamical chaos makes classical thermalization possible. For example, dynamical chaos itself cannot occur in an isolated quantum system, where time evolution is linear and the spectrum is discrete. Underscoring that new rules could apply in this case, some recent studies even suggested that statistical mechanics may give wrong predictions for the outcomes of relaxation in such systems. Here we demonstrate that an isolated generic quantum many-body system does in fact relax to a state well-described by the standard statistical mechanical prescription. Moreover, we show that time evolution itself plays a merely auxiliary role in relaxation and that thermalization happens instead at the level of individual eigenstates, as first proposed by J.M. Deutsch and M. Srednicki. A striking consequence of this eigenstate thermalization scenario is that the knowledge of a single many-body eigenstate suffices to compute thermal averages-any eigenstate in the microcanonical energy window will do, as they all give the same result.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            22 January 2015
            1501.05661 10.1126/science.aaa7432

            http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

            Custom metadata
            Science 349, 842 (2015)
            6 pages, 6 figures + supplementary information
            cond-mat.quant-gas cond-mat.dis-nn cond-mat.str-el quant-ph

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