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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tensor Network Wavefunctions for Topological Phases

  • Author(s): Ware, Brayden Alexander
  • Advisor(s): Bauer, Bela
  • Nayak, Chetan
  • et al.

The combination of quantum effects and interactions in quantum many-body systems can result in exotic phases with fundamentally entangled ground state wavefunctions -- topological phases. Topological phases come in two types, both of which will be studied in this thesis. In topologically ordered phases, the pattern of entanglement in the ground state wavefunction encodes the statistics of exotic emergent excitations, a universal indicator of a phase that is robust to all types of perturbations. In symmetry protected topological phases, the entanglement instead encodes a universal response of the system to symmetry defects, an indicator that is robust only to perturbations respecting the protecting symmetry.

Finding and creating these phases in physical systems is a motivating challenge that tests all aspects - analytical, numerical, and experimental - of our understanding of the quantum many-body problem. Nearly three decades ago, the creation of simple ansatz wavefunctions - such as the Laughlin fractional quantum hall state, the AKLT state, and the resonating valence bond state - spurred analytical understanding of both the role of entanglement in topological physics and physical mechanisms by which it can arise. However, quantitative understanding of the relevant phase diagrams is still challenging. For this purpose, tensor networks provide a toolbox for systematically improving wavefunction ansatz while still capturing the relevant entanglement properties.

In this thesis, we use the tools of entanglement and tensor networks to analyze ansatz states for several proposed new phases. In the first part, we study a featureless phase of bosons on the honeycomb lattice and argue that this phase can be topologically protected under any one of several distinct subsets of the crystalline lattice symmetries. We discuss methods of detecting such phases with entanglement and without.

In the second part, we consider the problem of constructing fixed-point wavefunctions for intrinsically fermionic topological phases, i.e. topological phases contructed out of fermions with a nontrivial response to fermion parity defects. A zero correlation length wavefunction and a commuting projector Hamiltonian that realizes this wavefunction as its ground state are constructed. Using an appropriate generalization of the minimally entangled states method for extraction of topological order from the ground states on a torus to the intrinsically fermionic case, we fully characterize the corresponding topological order as Ising x (p - i p). We argue that this phase can be captured using fermionic tensor networks, expanding the applicability of tensor network methods.

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