Phases of matter refer to classes of physical systems that share common properties. But properties of physical systems depend on the way their microscopic constituents are organised. Different arrangements, or orders, yield different properties and thus different phases of matter. In the late ‘80s, a new type of quantum order was discovered, which was was coined "topological order" in reference to properties that depend on the shapes of the corresponding physical systems. Notably, physical systems with topological order host excited states interpreted as anyonic quasi-particles, whose remarkable properties are encoded into rich algebraic structures.

My research project primarily aims at boosting our understanding of topological order in (3+1)d systems, from designing new lattice models to characterising their properties by revealing the underlying mathematical structures. Exploiting the realization that symmetries can be interpreted in terms of topological operators, I have recently been developing tools to study dualities in quantum lattice models with generalised categorical symmetries.

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Dualities in one-dimensional quantum lattice models

w/ Laurens Lootens, Gerardo Ortiz and Frank Verstraete

Guided by the recent realization that symmetries in quantum theories can be interpreted in terms of topological operators, we initiated in these two manuscripts a systematic study of dualities in one-dimensional quantum lattice models from the viewpoint of their (categorical) symmetries. The crux of our approach is that dualities are found between two models that only differ in a choice of module category over a common fusion category. Given an arbitrary (1+1)d model, we provide local operators implementing its symmetry-twisted boundary conditions. Symmetry operators preserving the boundary conditions are then realized in the form of matrix product operators. We employ these operators to recover the decomposition of the model into topological sectors labelled by simple objects in the Drinfel'd center of the symmetry fusion category. Finally, we construct intertwining operators mapping topological sectors of dual models onto one another, thereby addressing the long-standing problem of relating the spectra of dual models. Remarkably, our construction brings together numerous computational techniques, results and constructions that arose from the study of topological phases of matter and their tensor network parametrizations.


A toy model for categorical charges

Over the past few years tremendous progress has been achieved in our understanding of quantum theories by interpreting symmetries in terms of topological operators. This had led to generalizations of the notion symmetry whereby operators are organized into higher algebraic structures. For instance, higher-group symmetries non-trivially combine higher-form symmetries associated with weakly invertible operators of various co-dimensions. A prototypical example is the case of a 2-group symmetry obtained by mixing a 0- and a 1-form symmetry such that the 0-form symmetry acts on the 1-form charged operators. In this manuscript, I explore the (higher) representation theory of 2-groups in connection with the study of charged operators under such generalised symmetries.


Tensor network approach to electromagnetic duality in (3+1)d topological gauge models

This manuscript is the result of my effort to get a better grasp on dualities between (3+1)d topological models. Mathematically, such dualities are encoded into the notion of Morita equivalence, which becomes less and less intuitive as we go to higher spatial dimensions, even for simple models such as the toric code. Yet the electromagnetic duality of the toric code has a simple origin from a physical standpoint. One incarnation of this duality is the existence of two inequivalent tensor network representations of the ground state subspace. These representations, which are obtained via an elementary procedure, are characterised by symmetry conditions with respect to string- and membrane-like operators, respectively. One goal of this paper was to clarify how the existence of these representations—and a fortiori the electromagnetic duality—is related to Morita equivalence. Relying on category theoretical concepts, I propose a systematic framework to construct families of tensor network representations for finite group generalisations of the toric code. Within this framework, it is apparent that two canonical representations satisfy symmetry conditions with respect to operators encoded into the fusion 2-categories \({\rm 2Vec}_{G}\) and \({\rm 2Rep}(G)\), respectively. These 2-categories are then explicitly checked to be Morita equivalent. In the context of 2d quantum models, this is statement that gauging a \(G\)-symmetry yields a model with a \({\rm 2Rep}(G)\)-symmetry.


Crossing with the circle in Dijkgraaf-Witten theory and applications to topological phases of matter

w/ Alex Bullivant

Topological lattice models in (2+1)d can be defined as Hamiltonian realizations of the Turaev-Viro-Barrett-Westbury topological quantum field theory. In this formulation, the categorical structure encoding the anyonic excitations and their statistics corresponds to the quantum invariant the theory assigns to the circle. In this article, we explain with A. Bullivant that the higher-categorical structure encoding string-like excitations in (3+1)d gauge models of topological phases analogously corresponds to the quantum invariant the topological quantum field theory assigns to the circle. In contrast, the quantum invariant assigned to the torus encodes the loop-like excitations. We then compute the "crossing with the circle conditions", which establish that the dimension, or categorification thereof, of the quantum invariant assigned to a closed manifold \(\Sigma\) is equivalent to that assigned to the manifold \(\Sigma \times \mathbb S_1\). This computation formalizes the idea that loop-like excitations can be obtained by gluing string-like excitations along their endpoints. Finally, we exploit this result in order to revisit the statement that loop-like excitations define representations of the linear necklace group as well as the loop braid group.

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Tensor network representations of the (3+1)d toric code and stability criterion

w/ Dom Williamson, Frank Verstraete and Norbert Schuch

Tensor networks provide a very powerful analytical and numerical framework for the study of strongly correlated quantum many-body systems. In particular, they have been exploited to encode (2+1)d topological orders and their anyonic excitations, whereby the characteristic long-range correlation patterns are built up by contracting entanglement degrees of freedom of individual tensors. In these two articles, we initiated a systematic generalization of this approach for the study of (3+1)d topological orders. In the first manuscript, N. Schuch and I constructed and studied two isometric tensor network representations of the (3+1)d toric code. Moreover, we highlighted how the duality relation between these representations encodes the duality between a boundary (2+1)d Ising model and Wegner's \(\mathbb Z_2\) gauge theory. In the second manuscript with D. Williamson and F. Verstraete, we showed that one of these representations is stable to arbitrary local tensor perturbations, including those that do not map to local operators on the physical Hilbert space, and conjectured a relation between stability and so-called virtual symmetries for a given tensor network representation. This result provides promising evidence that (3+1)d topological tensor networks form a set of positive measure and further motivates the study of dual representations.

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Gapped boundaries and string-like excitations in (3+1)d gauge models of topological phases

w/ Alex Bullivant

A salient feature of three-dimensional topological lattice models is the existence of loop-like excitations, where "loop-like" here refers to the topology of a defect whose tubular neighbourhood is a region of the physical system with energy higher than that of the ground state. In general, such a defect supports composite excitations consisting of loop-like fluxes, to which point-like charges are attached, while being threaded by other fluxes. In the same vein, (open) string-like excitations can be considered, which occur for instance when loop-like excitations are brought in contact with gapped boundaries. We propose in this paper a classification and a characterization of such string-like excitations for a class of topological models that have a lattice gauge theory interpretation. Our derivations rely on a generalization of the so-called "tube algebra" approach, which consists in revealing the algebra, or categorification thereof, underlying the excitations and derive the elementary excitations as the corresponding simple modules. Among other things, we find that these string-like excitations are organized into a mathematical structure known as a bicategory, which is equivalent to the so-called monoidal center of another bicategory that serve as input data of the theory.

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Computing the renormalization group flow of \(\phi^4\) theory with tensor networks

w/ Antoine Tilloy

Partition functions of statistical systems can be written as tensor networks, i.e. collections of tensors that are contracted together according to patterns dictated by graphs, so that computing a partition function boils down to contracting the corresponding tensor network. In the thermodynamic limit, such tensor networks can only be contracted approximately due to the exponential growth of degrees of freedom. In 2017, we introduced with M. Hauru and S. Mizera a simple algorithm coined "gilt-TNR" that performs this approximate contraction very efficiently and, as a by-product, computes the renormalization group of the theory in the space of tensors. In this manuscript, A. Tilloy and I applied the same algorithm to compute the renormalization group flow of the \(\phi^4\) field theory. This was made possible by regularizing space into a fine-grained lattice and discretizing the scalar field in a controlled way. Aside from precious qualitative insights, we were able to compute the critical coupling of the theory in the continuum limit, which is a difficult problem (strongly coupled and non-perturbative). At the time of writing the paper, it was the best estimate for this constant, thus showcasing the power of tensor network renormalization techniques.

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