Unitary-projective entanglement dynamics

Starting from a state of low quantum entanglement, local unitary time evolution increases the entanglement of a quantum many-body system. In contrast, local projective measurements disentangle degrees of freedom and decrease entanglement. We study the interplay of these competing tendencies by considering time evolution combining both unitary and projective dynamics. We begin by constructing a toy model of Bell pair dynamics which demonstrates that measurements can keep a system in a state of low, i.e., area-law, entanglement, in contrast with the volume-law entanglement produced by generic pure unitary time evolution. While the simplest Bell pair model has area-law entanglement for any measurement rate, as seen in certain noninteracting systems, we show that more generic models of entanglement can feature an area-to-volume law transition at a critical value of the measurement rate, in agreement with recent numerical investigations. As a concrete example of these ideas, we analytically investigate Clifford evolution in qubit systems which can exhibit an entanglement transition. We are able to identify stabilizer size distributions characterizing the area law, volume law, and critical “fixed points.” We also discuss a Floquet random unitary circuit, where the answers depend on the order of limits—one order of limits yields area-law entanglement for any nonzero measurement rate, whereas a different order of limits allows for an arealaw–volumelaw transition. Finally, we provide a rigorous argument that a system subjected to projective measurements can only exhibit a volume-law entanglement entropy if it also features a subleading correction term, which provides a universal signature of projective dynamics in the high-entanglement phase.
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Physical Review B
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