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Parity-Time Symmetry in Non-Hermitian Quantum Walks

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posted on 03.12.2019 by Franck Assogba-Onanga
Over the last two decades, a new theory has been developed and intensively investigated in quantum physics. The theory stipulates that a non-Hermitian Hamiltonian can also represents a physical system as long as its energy spectral can be purely real in certain regime depending on the parameters of the Hamiltonian. It was demonstrated that the reality of the eigenenergy was conditioned by a certain kind of symmetry embedded in the actual non-Hermitian system. Indeed, such systems have a combined reflection (parity) symmetry (P) and time-reversal symmetry (T), PT-symmetry. The theory opens the door to new features particularly in open systems in which there could be gain and/or loss of particle or energy from and/or to the environment. A key property of the theory is the PT-symmetry breaking transition phenomenon which occurs at the exceptional point (EP). The exceptional points are special degeneracies characterized by a coalescence of not only the eigenvalues but also of the corresponding eigenvectors of the system; and the coalescence happens when the gain-loss strength, a measure of the openness of the system, exceeds the intrinsic energy-scale of the system.
In recent years, quantum walks with PT-symmetric non-unitary evolution have been realized in systems with balanced gain ans loss. These systems fall in two categories namely continuous time quantum walks (CTQW) that are characterized by a unitary or non-unitary time evolution Hamiltonian, and discrete-time quantum walks (DTQW) whose dynamic is described by a unitary or non-unitary time evolution operator consisting of a product of shift, coin, and gain-loss operations.
In this thesis, we investigate the PT-symmetric phase of CTQW and DTQW in a variety of non-Hermitian lattice systems with both position-dependent and position-independent, parity-symmetric tunneling functions in the presence of PT-symmetric impurities located at arbitrary parity-symmetric site on the lattice. Moreover, we explore the topological phase diagram and its novel features in non-Hermitian, homogeneous and non-homogeneous, PT-symmetric DTQW with closed or open boundary conditions. We conduct our study using analytical and numerical approaches that are directly and easily implementable in physical experiments. Among others, we found that, despite their non-unitary evolution, open systems governed by parity-time symmetric Hamiltonian support conserved quantities and that the PT-symmetry breaking threshold depends on the physical structure of the Hamiltonian and its underlying symmetries.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Physics and Astronomy

Campus location


Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Yogesh N. Joglekar

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Dr. Ricardo Decca

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Gautam Vemury

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Stephen Wassall

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Gabor Csathy