Publications associated with Condensed Matter Theory


Operator spreading in random unitary circuits

Physical Review X American Physical Society 8 (2018) 021014

A Nahum, S Vijay, J Haah

Random quantum circuits yield minimally structured models for chaotic quantum dynamics, which are able to capture, for example, universal properties of entanglement growth. We provide exact results and coarse-grained models for the spreading of operators by quantum circuits made of Haar-random unitaries. We study both 1+1D and higher dimensions and argue that the coarse-grained pictures carry over to operator spreading in generic many-body systems. In 1+1D, we demonstrate that the out-of-time-order correlator (OTOC) satisfies a biased diffusion equation, which gives exact results for the spatial profile of the OTOC and determines the butterfly speed vB. We find that in 1+1D, the “front” of the OTOC broadens diffusively, with a width scaling in time as t1/2. We address fluctuations in the OTOC between different realizations of the random circuit, arguing that they are negligible in comparison to the broadening of the front within a realization. Turning to higher dimensions, we show that the averaged OTOC can be understood exactly via a remarkable correspondence with a purely classical droplet growth problem. This implies that the width of the front of the averaged OTOC scales as t1/3 in 2+1D and as t0.240 in 3+1D (exponents of the Kardar-Parisi-Zhang universality class). We support our analytic argument with simulations in 2+1D. We point out that, in two or higher spatial dimensions, the shape of the spreading operator at late times is affected by underlying lattice symmetries and, in general, is not spherical. However, when full spatial rotational symmetry is present in 2+1D, our mapping implies an exact asymptotic form for the OTOC, in terms of the Tracy-Widom distribution. For an alternative perspective on the OTOC in 1+1D, we map it to the partition function of an Ising-like statistical mechanics model. As a result of special structure arising from unitarity, this partition function reduces to a random walk calculation which can be performed exactly. We also use this mapping to give exact results for entanglement growth in 1+1D circuits.


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