Computing spectra without solving eigenvalue problems

Douglas N. Arnold, Guy David, Marcel Filoche, David Jerison, Svitlana Mayboroda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The approximation of the eigenvalues and eigenfunctions of an elliptic operator is a key computational task in many areas of applied mathematics and computational physics. An important case, especially in quantum physics, is the computation of the spectrum of a Schr\"odinger operator with a disordered potential. Unlike plane waves or Bloch waves that arise as Schr\"odinger eigenfunctions for periodic and other ordered potentials, for many forms of disordered potentials the eigenfunctions remain essentially localized in a very small subset of the initial domain. A celebrated example is Anderson localization, for which, in a continuous version, the potential is a piecewise constant function on a uniform grid whose values are sampled independently from a uniform random distribution. We present here a new method for approximating the eigenvalues and the subregions which support such localized eigenfunctions. This approach is based on the recent theoretical tools of the localization landscape and effective potential. The approach is deterministic in the sense that the approximations are calculated based on the examination of a particular realization of a random potential, and predict quantities that depend sensitively on the particular realization, rather than furnishing statistical or probabilistic results about the spectrum associated to a family of potentials with a certain distribution. These methods, which have only been partially justified theoretically, enable the calculation of the locations and shapes of the approximate supports of the eigenfunctions, the approximate values of many of the eigenvalues, and of the eigenvalue counting function and density of states, all at the cost of solving a single source problem for the same elliptic operator. We study the effectiveness and limitations of the approach through extensive computations in one and two dimensions, using a variety of piecewise constant potentials with values sampled from various different correlated or uncorrelated random distributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)B69-B92
JournalSIAM Journal on Scientific Computing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
\ast Submitted to the journal's Computational Methods in Science and Engineering section November 13, 2017; accepted for publication (in revised form) November 8, 2018; published electronically January 29, 2019. Funding: This work was supported by grants to each of the authors from the Simons Foundation (601937, DNA; 601941, GD; 601944, MF; 601948, DJ; 563916, SM). The first author's work was supported by NSF grant DMS-1719694. The second author's work was supported by an ANR grant, programme blanc GEOMETRYA, ANR-12-BS01-0014. The fourth author's work was supported by NSF grant DMS-1500771. The fifth author's work was supported by NSF INSPIRE grant DMS-1344235.

Publisher Copyright:
©2019 Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.


  • Eigenfunction
  • Eigenvalue
  • Localization
  • Schr\odinger operator
  • Spectrum


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