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Physics 212: Statistical mechanics II, Fall 2006 Lecture XXI

In the previous lecture, we discussed how models with continuous order parameters, like the XY model, show dierent physics than models with discrete order parameters, like the Ising model. We can think of these physically important models as points in the (d, n) plane: then n = 1 corresponds to the Ising model, n = 2 the XY model, n = 3 the Heisenberg model. The KosterlitzThouless-Berezinskii case, which has a line of critical points, is at d = 2, n = 2. For continuous order parameters n > 1, there is no nite-temperature transition below 2 dimensions, while for the Ising model (n = 1) there is no nite-temperature transition in one dimension. Continuous spins also allow a number of important phenomena related to topological defects: the simplest example of this idea, which we discuss today, is a vortex in an XY model, which is a good description of real vortices in superuid. We will focus on the 2D system, where the vortex is easily visualized and also controls the phase diagram. In general a topological defect refers to a conguration of a continuous model that cannot smoothly relax to a uniform conguration because of a topological invariant (usually a winding number or some generalization thereof). (There are also topological congurations that do not involve defects; an example is Shankars monopole in the A phase of superuid helium-3.) Vortices are the simplest example. The local spin variable in the 2D Ising model is a unit vector on the circle. Suppose that we are at low temperature so that the spin moves only slightly from one site to the next. Then, in going around a large circle, we can ask how many times the spin winds around the unit circle, and dene this as the winding number n Z. Note that if the winding number is nonzero, then the continuum limit must break down at some point within the circle, as otherwise we would have the same angular rotation 2n around circles of smaller and smaller radius, implying larger and larger gradients and hence innite energy (we will calculate the energy of a vortex below). This will also let us see from a fairly simple calculation how there can be continuously varying exponents in the power-law correlations of the 2D XY model at low temperature. The assumption well need to make is that vortices are unimportant at suciently low temperature, so that the 2 periodicity of the phase can be ignored (a vortex in 2D is a point where the magnitude of the order parameter vanishes, around which the phase of the order parameter changes by a multiple of 2). This calculation can be justied by looking at the RG ow in a space of two parameters: the temperature, and the vortex fugacity (essentially a parameter controlling how many vortices there are). An excellent reference for this RG ow is the original paper by J. M. Kosterlitz and D. J. Thouless, J. Phys. C 6, 1181 (1973). If there are no vortices and the magnitude of the order parameter is constant, then the eective partition function is, where is no longer restricted to be periodic, Z= D(r) eKa
2

( )2 d2 r

(1)

One way to look at this model is as describing slow variations of the ordered conguration at low temperature: the magnitude is xed by free energy considerations, but there are degenerate states with the same magnitude but dierent , and slow variation of costs little energy.

Now the original spin S in the XY model can be represented as sx + isy = ei , so that the spin-spin correlator, which was claimed to go as a power-law, is s(0) s(r) = Re ei(0) ei(r) . (3) (2)

We can no longer simply rescale the eld to make its coecient Ka2 dimensionless, since such a rescaling would modify the periodicity constraint = + 2. This constraint has quite a surprising physical signicance. Using the continuum form, we can estimate the minimum energy of a vortex conguration, out to size L. Let a0 be some core size above which the continuum limit starts to be justied (we will assume a0 a, the lattice spacing). Then 1 E= K 2
L a

(n/r) d2 r n2 K log(L/a).

(4)

This means that in the thermodynamic limit, a single vortex has divergent energy, so we should not expect single vortices to appear. However, a pair of vortices of opposite n have only a nite energy: if the pair are separated by a distance L0 , the energy of the pair is of order n2 K log(L0 /a). Note that the concept of a vortex really only makes sense when we are at suciently low temperature that vortices are well separated: at high temperature, the spins are never smooth and the continuum limit, where vortices are well dened, makes no sense. To understand the physics of the XY model, lets start by calculating the correlation (0)(r) ignoring vortices. From our previous experience with Gaussian theories, we know to write this as an integral over Fourier components: G(r) = 1 (2)2 K
a1

eikr dr. k2

(5)

However, this integral is divergent at k = 0 (infrared divergent; ultraviolet divergent means at k = ). We can regularize the divergence by subtracting out the formally innite quantity G(0), and then using G(r) = G(r) G(0) to calculate physical quantities. G(r) = 1 (2)2 K
a1

1 eikr dr. k2

(6)

Now the integral can only be a function of the ratio r/a (you can check this by changing variables). As a 0, the leading term in the integration is proportional to G(r) = 1 (2)2 K
a1

dk log(r/a) = + ..., k 2K

(7)

where one factor of 2 was picked up by the angular integration. Note that at large r, G is divergent, which makes sense since is unbounded.

We now want to calculate the resulting spin-spin correlator. To do this we need to use a fact about Gaussian integrals. Recall the elementary Gaussian average eiJ = (A/ 2)

d eiJ e 2 A = e 2 A

1 J 2

= e 2

J 2 2

(8)

This generalizes to the continuum limit in the following way (exercise) (this is similar to a formula we used for stochastic processes): Re ei(r)i(0) = e 2 So nally s(0) s(r) = Re ei(r)i(0) = 1 . (r/a)1/2K (10)
1

((r)(0))2

= eG(r)G(0) .

(9)

So for dierent K, the spin-spin correlation falls o with dierent power laws. Note that this calculation predicts that the scaling dimension of the operator eip varies with p, as shown in an exercise in PS 5. In particular, the relevance or irrelevance of this operator is a function of p. However, this is a somewhat unphysical result: it certainly seems unlikely that at very high temperature, there are still algebraic correlations. To understand how our physical expectation of exponentially short correlations at high temperature is made correct, we give a simple picture due to Kosterlitz and Thouless (which is supported by a more serious RG calculation). We would like to compare the free energy of two phases: one in which vortices are bound in pairs, and essentially do not modify the Gaussian model, and one in which vortices are numerous and essentially free, although the system is still charge-neutral (total winding number 0). Suppose the vortices in the free phase have typical separation L0 . Then each vortex can be distributed over a region of size L0 2 , and the entropic contribution to the free energy per vortex is T S = 2T log L0 /a. The energy cost is E = n2 K log L0 /a, so there should be a phase transition somewhere near TKT = J/4kB . The phase with unbound vortices is sometimes known as a plasma phase since it is like having unbound positive and negative charges in a plasma. Note, of course, that the logarithmic interaction between vortex charges in 2D is just like that between Coulomb charges in 2D. A more serious calculation constructs an RG ow in terms of vortex fugacity to show that below a critical temperature vortices are irrelevant (their fugacity scales to 0), while above that temperature vortices are relevant (their fugacity increases upon rescaling). Many types of topological defects are now known in various condensed matter and particle physics systems. Vortices in the XY model have integer charge or winding number, but frequently topological defects have charge taking values in a nite group like Z2 (the group with two elements 1). Finally, in addition to the thermodynamics of such defects, one can consider their dynamics: many observed properties of superuid helium are controlled by the motion of vortex loops. The mathematical classication of topological defects has been carried out for a variety of systems. Vortex-like defects (defects that can be circled by a loop) are related to the group 1 (M ), where M is the manifold of degenerate values of the order parameter once its magnitude has been set (for example, S 1 for XY and S 2 for Heisenberg, where S d is the unit sphere in d+1 dimensions). 1 (M ) is known as the rst homotopy group and is the group of equivalence classes of mappings 3

from S 1 to M : for example, the mappings from S 1 to S 1 are characterized by an integer winding number n Z, so 1 (S 1 ) = Z, while 1 (S 2 ) = 0 (the group with one element) as any loop on the sphere is contractible to a point. In other words, 1 (M ) gives the set of equivalence classes up to smooth deformations of closed paths on M . Multiplication of equivalence classes in the group is dened by concatenation of paths. The second homotopy group 2 (M ) classies mappings from S 2 to M , and describes defects circled by a sphere, such as pointlike defects in 3D. For example, 2 (S 2 ) is nonzero, and there are stable point defect congurations of Heisenberg spins (known descriptively as hedgehogs) but not of XY spins. Shankars monopoles and other defect-free congurations in 3D are related to the group 3 .