Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Quantum many-body systems on the way back to equilibrium


Advances in experimental and theoretical physics enable a deeper understanding of the dynamics and properties of quantum many-body systems

Considering that one cubic centimetre of matter already contains about 10 to the 19 to 10 to the 23 particles it is hard to imagine that physicists nowadays can prepare ensembles comprising only some hundred, or even just a handful of atoms. What is more, they have improved their techniques to the extent that they can manipulate such particles individually or jointly and can fine tune their interactions.

Illustration of the various options to influence the properties of quantum many-body systems.

(Theory Division, MPQ)

Driven by on new numerical techniques, powerful supercomputers, and new mathematical techniques the theoretical description of such systems has seen equally impressive progress. In a recent review article in Nature Physics (3rd of February 2015) the team of Prof. Dr. Jens Eisert, Mathis Friesdorf (both from the Dahlem Center for Complex Quantum Systems, Freie Universität Berlin) and Dr. Christian Gogolin, postdoctoral researcher in the Theory Division of Prof. Ignacio Cirac at MPQ (Garching) and research fellow at ICFO (Barcelona), discuss the various quantum systems that have been realised and how they are described theoretically, and give an outlook on promising developments.

Particularly important in the quest for a better understanding of quantum many-body systems are the processes that take place while a system is on its way back to equilibrium after being perturbed externally. Here the challenge is to bridge the gap between the microscopic description of the local dynamics and the well-known macroscopic description in terms of statistical ensembles. Which picture applies depends crucially on the size of the system and the kind of interaction between the particles.

In many experiments systems with short range interactions are realised. Particularly fruitful have been techniques based on ultracold atomic gases in so-called optical lattices – essentially grids of standing waves generated by counterpropagating laser beams. Such systems can for example be used as models for ferromagnetic materials.

A very interesting aspect of condensed matter physics which can also be investigated with such systems is transport – for example that of electrons and thereby electric charges in crystals. In close collaboration experimentalists and theorists thereby find out which parameters determine properties such as the conductivity, and how defects and disorder influence the mobility of particles.

Large quantum many-body systems are often tackled with statistical methods from thermodynamics. Of particular interest is here the temporal evolution when global parameters – such as temperature or an external field – are changed. Such a change can be sudden or can occur more slowly over extended amounts of time, or even happen periodically. The scientists thereby investigate whether, how, and on what time scales systems go to a new equilibrium state.

In many systems "critical" values for the parameters exist at which a sudden transition to a new "phase" with drastically different properties can be observed – analogous to the melting of ice above zero degree Celsius. Understanding the dynamics of such phase transitions is an ongoing challenge for theoreticians.

Such quantum many-body systems have also proven useful as simulators of large and possibly multi-dimensional lattice systems whose non-equilibrium dynamics is not accessible with analytical or numerical tools. Experimental realisations of such systems can thus be regarded as analogue simulators with which these restrictions can be overcome.

Despite the tremendous progress many questions are still open. Some of the riddles of the tendency to evolve back into equilibrium are now understood, but the question of what defines the time scales on which these relaxation processes happen is still pretty much open. Moreover in the future scientists want to investigate not only closed systems, but also those in which interactions with the environment causes decoherence and dissipation. Such, usually harmful and unwanted processes – if carefully engineered – can be used to prepare interesting phases of matter. [OM/CG]

Original publication:
J. Eisert, M. Friesdorf and C. Gogolin
Quantum many-body systems out of equilibrium
Nature Physics, 3 February 2015, DOI:10.1038/Nphys3215


Prof. Dr. Ignacio Cirac
Honorary Professor, TU München
Director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics
Hans-Kopfermann-Str. 1, 85748 Garching, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)89 / 32 905 -705/-736
Fax: +49 (0)89 / 32 905 -336

Dr. Christian Gogolin
ICFO - The Institute of Photonic Sciences
Mediterranean Technology Park,
Av. Carl Friedrich Gauss, 3,
08860 Castelldefels (Barcelona), Spanien
Phone: +34 935 54 22 37

Dr. Olivia Meyer-Streng
Press & Public Relations
Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)89 / 32 905 -213

Dr. Olivia Meyer-Streng | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik
Further information:

Further reports about: Max Planck Institute Nature Physics QUANTUM Quantenoptik equilibrium

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>