Path integrals in the theory of condensed helium

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One of Feynman's early applications of path integrals was to superfluid 4He. He showed that the thermodynamic properties of Bose systems are exactly equivalent to those of a peculiar type of interacting classical "ring polymer." Using this mapping, one can generalize Monte Carlo simulation techniques commonly used for classical systems to simulate boson systems. In this review, the author introduces this picture of a boson superfluid and shows how superfluidity and Bose condensation manifest themselves. He shows the excellent agreement between simulations and experimental measurements on liquid and solid helium for such quantities as pair correlations, the superfluid density, the energy, and the momentum distribution. Major aspects of computational techniques developed for a boson superfluid are discussed: the construction of more accurate approximate density matrices to reduce the number of points on the path integral, sampling techniques to move through the space of exchanges and paths quickly, and the construction of estimators for various properties such as the energy, the momentum distribution, the superfluid density, and the exchange frequency in a quantum crystal. Finally the path-integral Monte Carlo method is compared to other quantum Monte Carlo methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-355
Number of pages77
JournalReviews of Modern Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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