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Many-Body Quantum Dynamics and Non-Equilibrium Phases of Matter


Isolated, many-body quantum systems, evolving under their intrinsic dynamics, exhibit a multitude of exotic phenomena and raise foundational questions about statistical mechanics. A flurry of theoretical work has been devoted to understanding how these systems reach thermal equilibrium in the absence of coupling to an external bath and, when thermalization does not occur, investigating the emergent non-equilibrium phases of matter. With the advent of synthetic quantum systems, such as ultra-cold atoms in optical lattices or trapped ions, these questions are no longer academic and can be directly studied in the laboratory. This dissertation explores the non-equilibrium phenomena that stem from the interplay between interactions, disorder, symmetry, topology, and external driving.

First, we study how strong disorder, leading to many-body localization, can arrest the heating of a Floquet system and stabilize symmetry-protected topological order that does not have a static analogue. We analyze its dynamical and entanglement properties, highlight its duality to a discrete time crystal, and propose an experimental implementation in a cold-atom setting.

Quenched disorder and the many-body localized state are crucial ingredients in protecting macroscopic quantum coherence. We explore the stability of many-body localization in two and higher dimensions and analyze its robustness to rare regions of weak disorder.

We then study a second example of non-thermal behavior, namely integrability. We show that a class of random spin models, realizable in systems of atoms coupled to an optical cavity, gives rise to a rich dynamical phase diagram, which includes regions of integrability, classical chaos, and of a novel integrable structure whose conservation laws are reminiscent of the integrals of motion found in a many-body localized phase.

The third group of disordered, non-ergodic systems we consider, spin glasses, have fascinating connections to complexity theory and the hardness of constraint satisfaction. We define a statistical ensemble that interpolates between the classical and quantum limits of such a problem and show that there exists a sharp boundary separating satisfiable and unsatisfiable phases.

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