Experimental observation of thermalization with noncommuting charges


Quantum simulators have recently enabled experimental observations of the internal thermalization of quantum many-body systems. Often, the global energy and particle number are conserved and the system is prepared with a well-defined particle number—in a microcanonical subspace. However, quantum evolution can also conserve quantities, or charges, that fail to commute with each other. Noncommuting charges have recently emerged as a subfield at the intersection of quantum thermodynamics and quantum information. Until now, this subfield has remained theoretical. We initiate the experimental testing of its predictions, with a trapped-ion simulator. We prepare 6–21 spins in an approximate microcanonical subspace, a generalization of the microcanonical subspace for accommodating noncommuting charges, which cannot necessarily have well-defined nontrivial values simultaneously. We simulate a Heisenberg evolution using laser-induced entangling interactions and collective spin rotations. The noncommuting charges are the three spin components. We find that small subsystems equilibrate to near a recently predicted non-Abelian thermal state. This work bridges quantum many-body simulators to the quantum thermodynamics of noncommuting charges, the predictions of which can now be tested.

Physical Review X Quantum 4, 020318