Entanglement and purification transitions in non-Hermitian quantum mechanics

TitleEntanglement and purification transitions in non-Hermitian quantum mechanics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsGopalakrishnan, S, Gullans, M
JournalPhys. Rev. Lett., in press
Date Published12/2/2020

A quantum system subject to continuous measurement and post-selection evolves according to a non-Hermitian Hamiltonian. We show that, as one increases the rate of post-selection, this non-Hermitian Hamiltonian undergoes a spectral phase transition. On one side of this phase transition (for weak post-selection) an initially mixed density matrix remains mixed at all times, and an initially unentangled state develops volume-law entanglement; on the other side, an arbitrary initial state approaches a unique pure state with low entanglement. We identify this transition with an exceptional point in the spectrum of the non-Hermitian Hamiltonian, at which PT symmetry is spontaneously broken. We characterize the transition as well as the nontrivial steady state that emerges at late times in the mixed phase using exact diagonalization and an approximate, analytically tractable mean-field theory; these methods yield consistent conclusions.