Thermalization in small quantum systems
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Citation (published version)Anatoli Polkovnikov, Dries Sels. 2016. "Thermalization in small quantum systems." SCIENCE, Volume 353, Issue 6301, pp. 752 - 753 (2). https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aah5776
Chaos and ergodicity are the cornerstones of statistical physics and thermodynamics. While classically even small systems like a particle in a two-dimensional cavity, can exhibit chaotic behavior and thereby relax to a microcanonical ensemble, quantum systems formally can not. Recent theoretical breakthroughs and, in particular, the eigenstate thermalization hypothesis (ETH) however indicate that quantum systems can also thermalize. In fact ETH provided us with a framework connecting microscopic models and macroscopic phenomena, based on the notion of highly entangled quantum states. Such thermalization was beautifully demonstrated experimentally by A. Kaufman et. al. who studied relaxation dynamics of a small lattice system of interacting bosonic particles. By directly measuring the entanglement entropy of subsystems, as well as other observables, they showed that after the initial transient time the system locally relaxes to a thermal ensemble while globally maintaining a zero-entropy pure state.