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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Quantum Many-Body Problem: Methods and Analysis

  • Author(s): Lindsey, Michael
  • Advisor(s): Lin, Lin
  • et al.

This dissertation concerns the quantum many-body problem, which is the problem of predicting the properties of systems of several quantum particles from the first principles of quantum mechanics. Included under this umbrella are various problems of fundamental importance in quantum chemistry, condensed matter physics, and materials science. Of particular interest is the electronic structure problem, the problem of determining the state of the electrons in a system with fixed atomic nuclei. Since direct numerical solution of the many-body Schrödinger equation is intractable even for systems of moderate size, a diverse array of approximate methods has been developed. The broad goals of this dissertation are to improve the mathematical understanding of certain widely-used approximations, as well as to propose new methods. Roughly speaking, we consider three (overlapping) categories of methods: Green's function methods, embedding methods, and variational methods.

One can understand Green's function methods in terms of many-body perturbation theory, which computes series expansions of physical quantities about a non-interacting reference system. These expansions can be expressed graphically in terms of Feynman diagrams, which can in turn be reorganized, in some cases, into an expansion in terms of so-called bold diagrams. Green's function methods can be specified by choosing a subset of bold diagrams to approximate the sum. At the same time, such methods can be understood in terms of an object known as the Luttinger-Ward (LW) functional, which admits a representation in terms of the bold diagrams. Many aspects of these constructions are purely formal, and indeed the existence of the fermionic LW functional as a single-valued functional has recently been called into question. To contribute to the understanding of these issues, we provide rigorous proofs of the combinatorial construction and analytic interpretation of the bold diagrams in the simplified setting of a classical field theory. In this setting we also provide a rigorous non-perturbative construction of the LW functional via convex duality and prove several key properties, including continuity up to the boundary of its domain and asymptotics in the limit of large interaction.

Quantum embedding methods, meanwhile, view a large system as being composed of smaller fragments that are treated with high accuracy and embedded in the larger system in a mutually consistent way. Inspired by a connection between the boundary analysis of the LW functional and embedding, we perform similar analysis for the 1-RDM theory for fermionic systems, which is also developed via convex duality, illustrating a relation to fermionic embedding methods such as the density matrix embedding theory (DMET).

Another embedding method of note is the dynamical mean-field theory (DMFT), which is at the same time a Green's function method that can be understood in terms of the LW functional. DMFT relies on the solution of impurity problems, which specify the embedding of an interacting system into a non-interacting bath. Underlying DMFT is a result about the sparsity pattern of the self-energy matrix for impurity problems, which to our knowledge has not been proved in the literature. We provide a rigorous proof of this result in various classical and quantum settings. We go on to investigate the fermionic DMFT in depth, identifying the key mathematical structures that appear in the algorithmic loop for solving it and using these to prove the well-posedness of this loop, in a certain sense.

Finally, we introduce a suite of new approaches to the quantum many-body problem that provide variational lower bounds to the ground-state energy. These methods, which combine the themes of convexity and embedding, are based on novel convex relaxations of the variational principles for the ground-state energies of many-body systems. To begin, we recover a second-quantized version of the formalism of strictly correlated electrons (SCE), which yields an exact expression for the exchange-correlation functional in Kohn-Sham density functional theory in the limit of infinite Coulomb repulsion in terms of the solution of a multi-marginal optimal transport problem. We introduce a semidefinite relaxation method for approximately solving this problem and obtaining a lower bound for the ground-state energy. The ideas underlying this relaxation are generalized considerably, outside the context of SCE, to yield much tighter lower bounds, which we validate numerically for both quantum spin systems and fermionic systems. We also describe how these relaxation methods can be interpreted as embedding methods via convex duality.

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