Compared to our understanding of equilibrium physics, the study of out of equilibrium dynamical phenomena is still in its infancy. Equilibrium systems can often be understood using mean field theory, universality and renormalisation group techniques. The situation is different away from equilibrium: there are fewer theoretical tools available, new approaches have to be developed and new organising principles have to be found.
In recent years out of equilibrium systems have become the subject of intensive research. The huge interest in the issues of thermalisation was partly triggered by the enormous progress of experiments in atomic physics, quantum optics and nanoscience. The possibility of realising simple models in a controlled and tunable fashion opens up the way to explore new frontiers, including non-equilibrium dynamics. In the cold atom experiments the system is almost perfectly isolated from its environment, which allows for the study of relaxation of closed systems and coherent quantum dynamics. Understanding these matters can be relevant for future precision measurement devices and quantum computation as well as for the dynamics of the early universe or the heavy ion collisions.
The question whether and how closed systems thermalise is deeply connected with the foundations of statistical physics. Does the system reach a steady state? How can this state be characterised? Is it thermal? What is the role of the size, dimensionality and integrability of the system? Most importantly, what are the universal features of the nonequilibrium dynamics?
The research project aims to investigate these questions for strongly correlated quantum field theories. First individual systems will be carefully analysed using a very flexible numerical method, the Truncated Conformal Space Approach. Then the main goal is to develop a general theoretical framework, a dynamical renormalisation group that captures the universal aspects of the time evolution and the steady state.
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