Disorder in large-N theories

Ofer Aharony, Zohar Komargodski*, Shimon Yankielowicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Abstract: We consider Euclidean Conformal Field Theories perturbed by quenched disorder, namely by random fluctuations in their couplings. Such theories are relevant for second-order phase transitions in the presence of impurities or other forms of disorder. Theories with quenched disorder often flow to new fixed points of the renormalization group. We begin with disorder in free field theories. Imry and Ma showed that disordered free fields can only exist for d > 4. For d > 4 we show that disorder leads to new fixed points which are not scale-invariant. We then move on to large-N theories (vector models or gauge theories in the ‘t Hooft limit). We compute exactly the beta function for the disorder, and the correlation functions of the disordered theory. We generalize the results of Imry and Ma by showing that such disordered theories exist only when disorder couples to operators of dimension Δ > d/4. Sometimes the disordered fixed points are not scale-invariant, and in other cases they have unconventional dependence on the disorder, including non-trivial effects due to irrelevant operators. Holography maps disorder in conformal theories to stochastic differential equations in a higher dimensional space. We use this dictionary to reproduce our field theory results. We also study the leading 1/N corrections, both by field theory methods and by holography. These corrections are particularly important when disorder scales with the number of degrees of freedom.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalJournal of High Energy Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2016


FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme335182


    • Random Systems
    • Renormalization Group


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