Quantum coherence controls the nature of equilibration and thermalization in coupled chaotic systems

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



A bipartite system whose subsystems are fully quantum chaotic and coupled by a perturbative interaction with a tunable strength is a paradigmatic model for investigating how isolated quantum systems relax toward an equilibrium. It is found that quantum coherence of the initial product states in the energy eigenbasis of the subsystems - quantified by the off-diagonal elements of the subsystem density matrices - can be viewed as a resource for equilibration and thermalization as manifested by the entanglement generated. Results are given for four distinct perturbation strength regimes, the ultraweak, weak, intermediate, and strong regimes. For each, three types of tensor product states are considered for the initial state: uniform superpositions, random superpositions, and individual subsystem eigenstates. A universal timescale is identified involving the interaction strength parameter. In particular, maximally coherent initial product states (a form of uniform superpositions) thermalize under time evolution for any perturbation strength in spite of the fact that in the ultraweak perturbative regime the underlying eigenstates of the system have a tensor product structure and are not at all thermal-like; though the time taken to thermalize tends to infinity as the interaction vanishes. Moreover, it is shown that in the ultraweak regime the initial entanglement growth of the system whose initial states are maximally coherent is quadratic-in-time, in contrast to the widely observed linear behavior.


Original languageEnglish
Article number024124
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


Library keywords