Symmetry reduction for tunneling defects due to strong couplings to phonons

P. Nalbach, M. Schechter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tunneling two-level systems (TLSs) are ubiquitous in amorphous solids, and form a major source of noise in systems such as nano-mechanical oscillators, single electron transistors, and superconducting qubits. Occurance of defect tunneling despite their coupling to phonons is viewed as a hallmark of weak defect-phonon coupling. This is since strong coupling to phonons results in significant phonon dressing and suppresses tunneling in two-level tunneling defects effectively. Here we determine the dynamics of a tunneling defect in a crystal strongly coupled to phonons incorporating the full 3D geometry in our description. We find that inversion symmetric tunneling is not dressed by phonons whereas other tunneling pathways are dressed by phonons and, thus, are suppressed by strong defect-phonon coupling. We provide the linear acoustic and dielectric response functions for a tunneling defect in a crystal for strong defect-phonon coupling. This allows direct experimental determination of the defect-phonon coupling. The singling out of inversion-symmetric tunneling states in single tunneling defects is complementary to their dominance of the low energy excitations in strongly disordered solids as a result of inter-defect interactions for large defect concentrations. This suggests that inversion symmetric TLSs play a unique role in the low energy properties of disordered solids.

Original languageEnglish
Article number063030
JournalNew Journal of Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • dephasing
  • open quantum system
  • tunneling defect

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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