Understanding Nonequilibrium Behaviors of Spin Glasses Through Heuristics

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Alan A. Middleton

Subject Categories

Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Spin glass behavior was first seen in metallic alloys with magnetic impurities dispersed randomly in the main non-magnetic component. Due to the simultaneous presence of quenched disorder and competing ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic interactions, the nonequilibrium behaviors of spin glasses are intricate and difficult to understand. Experimental research on spin glass materials indicate extremely slow dynamics, suggesting that the direct numerical simulation using local spin flips will take impractical time scales to replicate the nonequilibrium behaviors. This thesis introduces efficient algorithms and heuristics for the numerical simulation of simple models for spin glasses and discusses significant simulation results. The results provide insights into understanding the nonequilibrium behaviors, especially aging and memory, through studying microscopic constituent configurations. The methodology and conclusion presented in this thesis can be potentially extended to address general questions about disordered materials at nonequilibrium.

Chapter 1 provides a thorough overview of spin glasses. A detailed introduction on complex nonequilibrium behaviors, including slow dynamics and memory effects, seen in typical experiments of spin glass materials, is presented. A general discussion about the characterization and categorization of memory effects found in many out-of-equilibrium systems is highlighted. Two prevalent theoretical models on spin glasses, the droplet and replica symmetry breaking theory, are described. Lastly, algorithm development and simulation techniques used to study spin glasses are covered.

In Chapter 2, a patchwork heuristic is applied to accelerate the relaxation of spin glass models in dimensions $d=1$ and $d=2$ with the goal of investigating the dynamics of loss and recovery of spin configurations. A well-designed simulation protocol, consists of a aging and recovery stage, is used to mimic the temperature cycling experiment, where the temperature variations are replaced by the variations of the spin coupling realization. Eventual recovery of memory upon coarsening is seen in two-dimensional Ising spin glasses and one-dimensional clock models, while one-dimensional Ising spin systems do not exhibit configuration memory. A central result is that the coarsening recovery length scale $s_{\mathrm c}$ grows faster than the aging length scale $\ell$ as a power law relation $s_{\mathrm c}\sim\ell^{2.58}$.

In Chapter 3, the microscopic dependence of spin glass equilibration on sample history, i.e., the initial configuration and the specific noise history of stochastic dynamics, is examined. The patchwork dynamics is used to simulate the glassy dynamics over a wide range of length scales. The dependence of the nearest-neighbor spin correlations at long time on initial spin configurations and on noise histories are compared. Most of the local spin correlations are independent of the details of evolution, due to the formation of rigid domains. The correlations on a fractal set of domain walls are found to have distinct dependence on the noise history and the initial state. The initial ``nature'' of the state is retained in the domain walls under coarsening more than the ``nurture'' of the noise, while the location of the domain walls at each scale is determined by the frozen disorder (``environment''). We also provide evidence that coarsening with local dynamics at finite temperature gives persistence of overlaps roughly consistent with coarsening at zero temperature, at least over short distances, supporting the use of zero-temperature heuristics to address finite-temperature dynamics and memory.


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