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      Observation of a discrete time crystal

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          Abstract

          Spontaneous symmetry breaking is a fundamental concept in many areas of physics, including cosmology, particle physics and condensed matter. An example is the breaking of spatial translational symmetry, which underlies the formation of crystals and the phase transition from liquid to solid. Using the analogy of crystals in space, the breaking of translational symmetry in time and the emergence of a ‘time crystal’ was recently proposed, but was later shown to be forbidden in thermal equilibrium. However, non-equilibrium Floquet systems, which are subject to a periodic drive, can exhibit persistent time correlations at an emergent subharmonic frequency. This new phase of matter has been dubbed a ‘discrete time crystal’. Here we present the experimental observation of a discrete time crystal, in an interacting spin chain of trapped atomic ions. We apply a periodic Hamiltonian to the system under many-body localization conditions, and observe a subharmonic temporal response that is robust to external perturbations. The observation of such a time crystal opens the door to the study of systems with long-range spatio-temporal correlations and novel phases of matter that emerge under intrinsically non-equilibrium conditions.

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          Experimental realisation of the topological Haldane model

          The Haldane model on the honeycomb lattice is a paradigmatic example of a Hamiltonian featuring topologically distinct phases of matter. It describes a mechanism through which a quantum Hall effect can appear as an intrinsic property of a band-structure, rather than being caused by an external magnetic field. Although an implementation in a material was considered unlikely, it has provided the conceptual basis for theoretical and experimental research exploring topological insulators and superconductors. Here we report on the experimental realisation of the Haldane model and the characterisation of its topological band-structure, using ultracold fermionic atoms in a periodically modulated optical honeycomb lattice. The model is based on breaking time-reversal symmetry as well as inversion symmetry. The former is achieved through the introduction of complex next-nearest-neighbour tunnelling terms, which we induce through circular modulation of the lattice position. For the latter, we create an energy offset between neighbouring sites. Breaking either of these symmetries opens a gap in the band-structure, which is probed using momentum-resolved interband transitions. We explore the resulting Berry-curvatures of the lowest band by applying a constant force to the atoms and find orthogonal drifts analogous to a Hall current. The competition between both broken symmetries gives rise to a transition between topologically distinct regimes. By identifying the vanishing gap at a single Dirac point, we map out this transition line experimentally and compare it to calculations using Floquet theory without free parameters. We verify that our approach, which allows for dynamically tuning topological properties, is suitable even for interacting fermionic systems. Furthermore, we propose a direct extension to realise spin-dependent topological Hamiltonians.
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            Many body localization and thermalization in quantum statistical mechanics

            We review some recent developments in the statistical mechanics of isolated quantum systems. We provide a brief introduction to quantum thermalization, paying particular attention to the `Eigenstate Thermalization Hypothesis' (ETH), and the resulting `single-eigenstate statistical mechanics'. We then focus on a class of systems which fail to quantum thermalize and whose eigenstates violate the ETH: These are the many-body Anderson localized systems; their long-time properties are not captured by the conventional ensembles of quantum statistical mechanics. These systems can locally remember forever information about their local initial conditions, and are thus of interest for possibilities of storing quantum information. We discuss key features of many-body localization (MBL), and review a phenomenology of the MBL phase. Single-eigenstate statistical mechanics within the MBL phase reveals dynamically-stable ordered phases, and phase transitions among them, that are invisible to equilibrium statistical mechanics and can occur at high energy and low spatial dimensionality where equilibrium ordering is forbidden.
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              Many-body localization in a quantum simulator with programmable random disorder

              When a system thermalizes it loses all local memory of its initial conditions. This is a general feature of open systems and is well described by equilibrium statistical mechanics. Even within a closed (or reversible) quantum system, where unitary time evolution retains all information about its initial state, subsystems can still thermalize using the rest of the system as an effective heat bath. Exceptions to quantum thermalization have been predicted and observed, but typically require inherent symmetries or noninteracting particles in the presence of static disorder. The prediction of many-body localization (MBL), in which disordered quantum systems can fail to thermalize in spite of strong interactions and high excitation energy, was therefore surprising and has attracted considerable theoretical attention. Here we experimentally generate MBL states by applying an Ising Hamiltonian with long-range interactions and programmably random disorder to ten spins initialized far from equilibrium. We observe the essential signatures of MBL: memory retention of the initial state, a Poissonian distribution of energy level spacings, and entanglement growth in the system at long times. Our platform can be scaled to higher numbers of spins, where detailed modeling of MBL becomes impossible due to the complexity of representing such entangled quantum states. Moreover, the high degree of control in our experiment may guide the use of MBL states as potential quantum memories in naturally disordered quantum systems.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Nature
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                March 8 2017
                March 8 2017
                : 543
                : 7644
                : 217-220
                Article
                10.1038/nature21413
                © 2017
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