Synopsis: Quantum phase transitions via holographic duality

String dualities are exploited to find a quantum phase transition in two spatial dimensions with non-mean-field exponents.
Synopsis figure
Illustration: Alan Stonebraker

The rich toolkit of string dualities makes it possible to map problems involving strongly interacting particles to an equivalent problem involving string theories in curved spacetime backgrounds, where explicit analytical computations often become feasible. A question of great general interest is what light this dual formulation sheds on the physics of phase transitions. Typically, string theoretic or holographic descriptions lead to phase transitions that are first or second order with mean-field exponents; a hallmark of mean-field behavior. A natural question to ask is whether there is a string theoretic mechanism that can lead to phase transitions that are not described by mean-field theories.

In a paper in Physical Review Letters, Kristan Jensen, Andreas Karch, Dam Son, and Ethan Thompson from the University of Washington, US, show that Berezinsky-Kosterlitz-Thouless (BKT) phase transitions, characterized by exponential as opposed to power-law scaling of the order parameter, are generic to a large class of models in three spacetime dimensions possessing a dual string description. The phase transition reported in the paper occurs at zero temperature making it quantum in nature. This rather general result can be expected to shed fresh insight into the somewhat mysterious nature of the BKT phase transitions and have ramifications for various nonrelativistic and relativistic many-body systems. – Abhishek Agarwal


Announcements

More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Particles and Fields

Previous Synopsis

Next Synopsis

Magnetism

Extreme sensitivity

Read More »

Related Articles

Synopsis: Neutrinos from the North
Astrophysics

Synopsis: Neutrinos from the North

Using Earth as a neutrino filter, the IceCube neutrino experiment strengthens its claim that it has detected neutrinos from powerful astrophysical accelerators outside our Galaxy. Read More »

Viewpoint: Deciphering Gamma Rays from a Dwarf Galaxy
Particles and Fields

Viewpoint: Deciphering Gamma Rays from a Dwarf Galaxy

Are gamma rays from a nearby dwarf galaxy a beacon of dark matter or a false alarm? Read More »

Viewpoint: Elusive Pentaquark Comes into View
Particles and Fields

Viewpoint: Elusive Pentaquark Comes into View

A new type of particle containing five quarks has been observed by the LHCb experiment. Read More »

More Articles