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The Interplay of Localization and Interactions in Quantum Many-Body Systems


Iyer, Shankar (2013) The Interplay of Localization and Interactions in Quantum Many-Body Systems. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/37K7-6Q13.


Disorder and interactions both play crucial roles in quantum transport. Decades ago, Mott showed that electron-electron interactions can lead to insulating behavior in materials that conventional band theory predicts to be conducting. Soon thereafter, Anderson demonstrated that disorder can localize a quantum particle through the wave interference phenomenon of Anderson localization. Although interactions and disorder both separately induce insulating behavior, the interplay of these two ingredients is subtle and often leads to surprising behavior at the periphery of our current understanding. Modern experiments probe these phenomena in a variety of contexts (e.g. disordered superconductors, cold atoms, photonic waveguides, etc.); thus, theoretical and numerical advancements are urgently needed. In this thesis, we report progress on understanding two contexts in which the interplay of disorder and interactions is especially important.

The first is the so-called “dirty” or random boson problem. In the past decade, a strong-disorder renormalization group (SDRG) treatment by Altman, Kafri, Polkovnikov, and Refael has raised the possibility of a new unstable fixed point governing the superfluid-insulator transition in the one-dimensional dirty boson problem. This new critical behavior may take over from the weak-disorder criticality of Giamarchi and Schulz when disorder is sufficiently strong. We analytically determine the scaling of the superfluid susceptibility at the strong-disorder fixed point and connect our analysis to recent Monte Carlo simulations by Hrahsheh and Vojta. We then shift our attention to two dimensions and use a numerical implementation of the SDRG to locate the fixed point governing the superfluid-insulator transition there. We identify several universal properties of this transition, which are fully independent of the microscopic features of the disorder.

The second focus of this thesis is the interplay of localization and interactions in systems with high energy density (i.e., far from the usual low energy limit of condensed matter physics). Recent theoretical and numerical work indicates that localization can survive in this regime, provided that interactions are sufficiently weak. Stronger interactions can destroy localization, leading to a so-called many-body localization transition. This dynamical phase transition is relevant to questions of thermalization in isolated quantum systems: it separates a many-body localized phase, in which localization prevents transport and thermalization, from a conducting (“ergodic”) phase in which the usual assumptions of quantum statistical mechanics hold. Here, we present evidence that many-body localization also occurs in quasiperiodic systems that lack true disorder.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:condensed matter; disorder; Anderson localization; many-body physics; statistical mechanics; dirty bosons; many-body localization
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Refael, Gil
Group:Institute for Quantum Information and Matter
Thesis Committee:
  • Refael, Gil (chair)
  • Motrunich, Olexei I.
  • Cross, Michael Clifford
  • Painter, Oskar J.
Defense Date:29 May 2013
Non-Caltech Author Email:siyer.shankar (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05292013-170142035
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:7766
Deposited By: Shankar Iyer
Deposited On:30 May 2013 23:46
Last Modified:02 Jun 2020 21:54

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