Research Article

Probing entanglement in a many-body–localized system

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Science  19 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6437, pp. 256-260
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau0818

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Some one-dimensional disordered interacting quantum systems have been theoretically predicted to display a property termed many-body localization (MBL), where the system retains the memory of its initial state and fails to thermalize. However, proving experimentally that something does not occur is tricky. Instead, physicists have proposed monitoring the entanglement entropy of the system, which should grow logarithmically with evolution time in an MBL system. Lukin et al. observed this characteristic logarithmic trend in a disordered chain of interacting atoms of rubidium-87. This method should be generalizable to other experimental platforms and higher dimensions.

Science, this issue p. 256


An interacting quantum system that is subject to disorder may cease to thermalize owing to localization of its constituents, thereby marking the breakdown of thermodynamics. The key to understanding this phenomenon lies in the system’s entanglement, which is experimentally challenging to measure. We realize such a many-body–localized system in a disordered Bose-Hubbard chain and characterize its entanglement properties through particle fluctuations and correlations. We observe that the particles become localized, suppressing transport and preventing the thermalization of subsystems. Notably, we measure the development of nonlocal correlations, whose evolution is consistent with a logarithmic growth of entanglement entropy, the hallmark of many-body localization. Our work experimentally establishes many-body localization as a qualitatively distinct phenomenon from localization in noninteracting, disordered systems.

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