This is the first in a series of two papers, in which we revisit the problem of decoherence in weak localization. The basic challenge addressed in our work is to calculate the decoherence of electrons interacting with a quantum-mechanical environment while taking proper account of the Pauli principle. First, we review the usual influence functional approach valid for decoherence of electrons due to classical noise, showing along the way how the quantitative accuracy can be improved by properly averaging over closed (rather than unrestricted) random walks. We then use a heuristic approach to show how the Pauli principle may be incorporated into a path-integral description of decoherence in weak localization. This is accomplished by introducing an effective modification of the quantum noise spectrum, after which the calculation proceeds analogous to the case of classical noise. Using this simple but efficient method, which is consistent with much more laborious diagrammatic calculations, we demonstrate how the Pauli principle serves to suppress the decohering effects of quantum fluctuations of the environment, and essentially confirm the classic result of Altshuler, Aronov, and Khmelnitskii [J. Phys. C 15, 7367 (1982)] for the energy-averaged decoherence rate, which vanishes at zero temperature. Going beyond that, we employ our method to calculate explicitly the leading quantum corrections to the classical decoherence rates and to provide a detailed analysis of the energy dependence of the decoherence rate. The basic idea of our approach is general enough to be applicable to the decoherence of degenerate Fermi systems in contexts other than weak localization as well. Paper II will provide a more rigorous diagrammatic basis for our results by rederiving them from a Bethe-Salpeter equation for the Cooperon.
|Number of pages||1|
|Journal||Physical Review B|
|Early online date||1 Nov 2007|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Nov 2007|