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A constructive theory of the numerically accessible many-body localized to thermal crossover

Philip J D Crowley, Anushya Chandran

SciPost Phys. 12, 201 (2022) · published 24 June 2022


The many-body localised (MBL) to thermal crossover observed in exact diagonalisation studies remains poorly understood as the accessible system sizes are too small to be in an asymptotic scaling regime. We develop a model of the crossover in short 1D chains in which the MBL phase is destabilised by the formation of many-body resonances. The model reproduces several properties of the numerically observed crossover, including an apparent correlation length exponent $\nu=1$, exponential growth of the Thouless time with disorder strength, linear drift of the critical disorder strength with system size, scale-free resonances, apparent $1/\omega$ dependence of disorder-averaged spectral functions, and sub-thermal entanglement entropy of small subsystems. In the crossover, resonances induced by a local perturbation are rare at numerically accessible system sizes $L$ which are smaller than a \emph{resonance length} $\lambda$. For $L \gg \sqrt{\lambda}$ (in lattice units), resonances typically overlap, and this model does not describe the asymptotic transition. The model further reproduces controversial numerical observations which Refs. [Suntajs et al 2019, Sels & Polkovnikov 2020] claimed to be inconsistent with MBL. We thus argue that the numerics to date is consistent with a MBL phase in the thermodynamic limit.

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