Quantum East Model: Localization, Nonthermal Eigenstates, and Slow Dynamics

Nicola Pancotti, Giacomo Giudice, J. Ignacio Cirac, Juan P. Garrahan, and Mari Carmen Bañuls
Physical Review X   Published 2020


We study in detail the properties of the quantum East model, an interacting quantum spin chain inspired by simple kinetically constrained models of classical glasses. Through a combination of analytics, exact diagonalization, and tensor-network methods, we show the existence of a transition, from a fast to a slow thermalization regime, which manifests itself throughout the spectrum. On the slow side, by exploiting the localization of the ground state and the form of the Hamiltonian, we explicitly construct a large (exponential in size) number of nonthermal states that become exact finite-energy-density eigenstates in the large size limit, as expected for a true phase transition. A “superspin” generalization allows us to find a further large class of area-law states proved to display very slow relaxation. These states retain memory of their initial conditions for extremely long times. Our numerical analysis reveals that the localization properties are not limited to the ground state and that many eigenstates have large overlap with product states and can be approximated well by matrix product states at arbitrary energy densities. The mechanism that induces localization to the ground state, and hence the nonthermal behavior of the system, can be extended to a wide range of models including a number of simple spin chains. We discuss implications of our results for slow thermalization and nonergodicity more generally in disorder-free systems with constraints, and we give numerical evidence that these results may be extended to two-dimensional systems.