Virtual excitations in the ultra-strongly-coupled spin-boson model: physical results from unphysical modes

14 Mar 2019  ·  Neill Lambert, Shahnawaz Ahmed, Mauro Cirio, Franco Nori ·

Here we show how, in the ultra-strongly-coupled spin-boson model, apparently unphysical "Matsubara modes" are required not only to regulate detailed balance, but also to arrive at a correct and physical description of the non-perturbative dynamics and steady-state. In particular, in the zero-temperature limit, we show that neglecting the Matsubara modes results in an erroneous emission of virtual photons from the collective ground state. To explore this difficult-to-model regime we start by using a non-perturbative hierarchical equations of motion (HEOM) approach, based on a partial fitting of the bath correlation-function which takes into account the infinite sum of Matsubara frequencies using only a biexponential function. We compare the HEOM method to both a pseudo-mode model, and the reaction coordinate (RC) mapping, which help explain the nature of the aberrations observed when Matsubara frequencies are neglected. For the pseudo-mode method we present a general proof of validity, which allows for negative Matsubara-contributions to the decomposition of the bath correlation functions to be described by zero-frequency Matsubara-modes with non-Hermitian coupling to the system. The latter obey a non-Hermitian pseudo-Schr\"odinger equation, ultimately justifying why superficially unphysical modes can give rise to physical system behavior.

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