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Coherent Electronic Transport in Periodic Crystals


We consider independent electrons in a periodic crystal in their ground state, and turn on a uniform electric field at some prescribed time. We rigorously define the current per unit volume and study its properties using both linear response and adiabatic theory. Our results provide a unified framework for various phenomena such as the quantization of Hall conductivity of insulators with broken time-reversibility, the ballistic regime of electrons in metals, Bloch oscillations in the long-time response of metals, and the static conductivity of graphene. We identify explicitly the regime in which each holds.

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We are grateful to Caroline Lasser for stimulating discussions all along the preparation of this article. We thank the two reviewers for their constructive suggestions, and in particular for pointing out to us a more elegant proof of Proposition 2.1 and the extension to uniform magnetic fields discussed in Remark 2.3. This project has been supported by Labex Bezout and has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No 810367). The second author thanks the mathematics department of the Technische Universität München for hosting her during the final writing of this article.

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Correspondence to Clotilde Fermanian Kammerer.

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Communicated by Vieri Mastropietro.

Proofs of Two Technical Lemmata

Proofs of Two Technical Lemmata

Proof of Lemma 4.1


We replicate the proof of the Faris–Lavine Theorem given in [32], replacing the Laplacian by \(\frac{1}{2}(-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}})^2\). It consists in verifying the following two hypotheses of [32, Theorem X.37]. Let \(A = \frac{1}{2}(-i\nabla +{\mathcal {A}})^2 + W+V\) and \(N=A+2c|x|^2 +b\), where \(b\in {{\mathbb {R}}}\) will be specified below:

$$\begin{aligned} {} \textit{there exists h, such that for any } \phi \in {\mathcal {C}}, \quad \Vert A\phi \Vert \le h \Vert N\phi \Vert ; \end{aligned}$$
$$\begin{aligned} \textit{for some} \ell ,\textit{ for any } \phi \in {\mathcal {C}},\quad |(A\phi ,N\phi ) - (N\phi ,A\phi )| \le \ell \Vert N^\frac{1}{2} \phi \Vert ^2. \end{aligned}$$

By hypothesis 3 in Lemma 4.1 and the conditions on W, it is possible to choose b so that \(N\ge 1\). As quadratic forms on \({\mathcal {C}}\),

$$\begin{aligned} N^2 = (A+b)^2 + 4c \sum _{j=1}^d x_j (A+b+c|x|^2)x_j - 2cd. \end{aligned}$$

Hypotheses 1 and 3 guarantee that \(A+b+c|x|^2\) is bounded below. Hence, increasing the value of b if necessary to make this operator positive, we have

$$\begin{aligned} \Vert (A+b)\phi \Vert ^2_{L^2} \le \Vert N\phi \Vert ^2_{L^2} +4cd\Vert \phi \Vert ^2_{L^2}, \end{aligned}$$

which proves (90).

For (91), we observe that

$$\begin{aligned}&\pm i [A,N] = \pm 2c(x \cdot (-i\nabla +{\mathcal {A}}) + (-i\nabla +{\mathcal {A}})\cdot x)\\&\le 2 c \left( (-i\nabla +{\mathcal {A}})^2 +|x|^2\right) \le \ell N, \end{aligned}$$

where we have used

$$\begin{aligned} (-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}})^2 + |x|^2 \pm (x\cdot (-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}}) + (-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}})\cdot x) = (-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}} \pm x)^2 \ge 0 \end{aligned}$$


$$\begin{aligned}&N = \left( \frac{a}{2} (-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}})^2 + V\right) + (W+c|x|^2)\\&+ \frac{1-a}{2}(-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}})^2 + c|x|^2 +b \ge e((-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}})^2+|x|^2), \end{aligned}$$

where \(e = \min (c,\frac{1-a}{2})>0\) and where b is chosen so that

$$\begin{aligned} b- f +\min \,\sigma \left( \frac{a}{2} (-i\nabla + {\mathcal {A}})^2 + V\right) \ge 0. \end{aligned}$$

This proves (91). Hence A is essentially self-adjoint on \({\mathcal {C}}\). \(\square \)

Proof of Lemma 4.2


By the Kato-Rellich theorem, for any \(0\le t\le T\), H(t) is self-adjoint on \(L^2_{\mathrm{per}}\) with domain \(H^2_\mathrm{per}\), and bounded below. We will show that there exists \(\mu >0\) so that the graph norm of \((H(t)+\mu )\) for any \(0\le t \le T\) is equivalent to the \(H^2_{\mathrm{per}}\)-norm. This will prove Lemma 4.2 by Proposition 2.1 in [36] (see also Theorem X.70 in [32]).

We have for any \(\mu >0\), \(0\le t\le T\) and \(\phi \in H^{2}_\mathrm{per}\),

$$\begin{aligned} \Vert (H(t)+\mu )\phi \Vert _{L^{2}_{\mathrm{per}}} \le (1+a)\Vert H_0 \phi \Vert _{L^{2}_{\mathrm{per}}} + (b+\mu ) \Vert \phi \Vert _{L^{2}_{\mathrm{per}}} \le (1+a+b+\mu ) \Vert \phi \Vert _{H^2_{\mathrm{per}}}, \end{aligned}$$

and so the graph norm is controlled by the \(H^2_{\mathrm{per}}\)-norm.

For the other inequality, we relate the resolvent of H(t) to that of \(H_0\) by a bounded operator, with bounded inverse. Notice that, for any \(\mu >0\), since \(H_0\) is positive,

$$\begin{aligned} \forall \; 0\le t\le T, \quad (H(t)+\mu ) = (1+H_1(t)(H_0+\mu )^{-1})(H_0+\mu ). \end{aligned}$$


$$\begin{aligned} \forall \; 0\le t\le T, \quad \Vert H_1(t)(H_0+\mu )^{-1}\Vert \le a\Vert H_0(H_0+\mu )^{-1}\Vert +b\Vert (H_0+\mu )^{-1}\Vert \le a +\frac{b}{\mu }. \end{aligned}$$

and so, for \(\mu > \frac{b}{1-a}\), the operator \(1+ H_1(t)(H_0+\mu )^{-1}\) is bounded and invertible with bounded inverse in \(L^{2}_{\mathrm{per}}\). Therefore \((H(t)+\mu )^{-1}\) is bounded from \(L^2_{\mathrm{per}}\) to \(H^2_{\mathrm{per}}\), which means there exists \(C>0\) such that, for any \(\phi \in H^2_{\mathrm{per}}\) and \(0\le t\le T\),

$$\begin{aligned} \Vert \phi \Vert _{H^2_{\mathrm{per}}} = \Vert (H(t)+\mu )^{-1}(H(t)+\mu )\phi \Vert _{H^2_{\mathrm{per}}} \le C\Vert (H(t)+\mu )\phi \Vert _{L^{2}_{\mathrm{per}}}, \end{aligned}$$

which concludes the proof. \(\square \)

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Cancès, E., Fermanian Kammerer, C., Levitt, A. et al. Coherent Electronic Transport in Periodic Crystals. Ann. Henri Poincaré 22, 2643–2690 (2021).

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