Time discretization of functional integrals
preprintposted on 2006-04-12, 10:21 authored by John Samson
Numerical evaluation of functional integrals usually involves a finite (L-slice) discretization of the imaginary-time axis. In the auxiliary-field method, the L-slice approximant to the density matrix can be evaluated as a function of inverse temperature at any finite L as $\rho_L(\beta)=[\rho_1(\beta/L)]^L$, if the density matrix $\rho_1(\beta)$ in the static approximation is known. We investigate the convergence of the partition function $Z_L(\beta)=Tr\rho_L(\beta)$, the internal energy and the density of states $g_L(E)$ (the inverse Laplace transform of $Z_L$), as $L\to\infty$. For the simple harmonic oscillator, $g_L(E)$ is a normalized truncated Fourier series for the exact density of states. When the auxiliary-field approach is applied to spin systems, approximants to the density of states and heat capacity can be negative. Approximants to the density matrix for a spin-1/2 dimer are found in closed form for all L by appending a self-interaction to the divergent Gaussian integral and analytically continuing to zero self-interaction. Because of this continuation, the coefficient of the singlet projector in the approximate density matrix can be negative. For a spin dimer, $Z_L$ is an even function of the coupling constant for L<3: ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic coupling can be distinguished only for $L\ge 3$, where a Berry phase appears in the functional integral. At any non-zero temperature, the exact partition function is recovered as $L\to\infty$.