Eigenstate thermalization and quantum chaos in the Holstein-polaron model
Physical Review B, 99 (15), 155130, (2019)
The eigenstate thermalization hypothesis (ETH) is a successful theory that provides sufficient criteria for ergodicity in quantum many-body systems. Most studies were carried out for Hamiltonians relevant for ultracold quantum gases and single-component systems of spins, fermions, or bosons. The paradigmatic example for thermalization in solid-state physics are phonons serving as a bath for electrons. This situation is often viewed from an open-quantum system perspective. Here, we ask whether a minimal microscopic model for electron-phonon coupling is quantum chaotic and whether it obeys ETH, if viewed as a closed quantum system. Using exact diagonalization, we address this question in the framework of the Holstein-polaron model. Even though the model describes only a single itinerant electron, whose coupling to dispersionless phonons is the only integrability-breaking term, we find that the spectral statistics and the structure of Hamiltonian eigenstates exhibit essential properties of the corresponding random-matrix ensemble. Moreover, we verify the ETH ansatz both for diagonal and offdiagonal matrix elements of typical phonon and electron observables, and show that the ratio of their variances equals the value predicted from random-matrix theory.