3 years ago

Observation of prethermalization in long-range interacting spin chains

Phil Richerme, Zhe-Xuan Gong, Jacob Smith, Brian Neyenhuis, Alexey V. Gorshkov, Paul W. Hess, Christopher Monroe, Aaron C. Lee, Jiehang Zhang

Although statistical mechanics describes thermal equilibrium states, these states may or may not emerge dynamically for a subsystem of an isolated quantum many-body system. For instance, quantum systems that are near-integrable usually fail to thermalize in an experimentally realistic time scale, and instead relax to quasi-stationary prethermal states that can be described by statistical mechanics, when approximately conserved quantities are included in a generalized Gibbs ensemble (GGE). We experimentally study the relaxation dynamics of a chain of up to 22 spins evolving under a long-range transverse-field Ising Hamiltonian following a sudden quench. For sufficiently long-range interactions, the system relaxes to a new type of prethermal state that retains a strong memory of the initial conditions. However, the prethermal state in this case cannot be described by a standard GGE; it rather arises from an emergent double-well potential felt by the spin excitations. This result shows that prethermalization occurs in a broader context than previously thought, and reveals new challenges for a generic understanding of the thermalization of quantum systems, particularly in the presence of long-range interactions.

Publisher URL: http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/3/8/e1700672

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700672

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