Universal mechanism for Anderson and weak localization

Marcel Filoche, Svitlana Mayboroda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Localization of stationary waves occurs in a large variety of vibrating systems, whether mechanical, acoustical, optical, or quantum. It is induced by the presence of an inhomogeneous medium, a complex geometry, or a quenched disorder. One of its most striking and famous manifestations is Anderson localization, responsible for instance for the metal-insulator transition in disordered alloys. Yet, despite an enormous body of related literature, a clear and unified picture of localization is still to be found, as well as the exact relationship between its many manifestations. In this paper, we demonstrate that both Anderson and weak localizations originate from the same universal mechanism, acting on any type of vibration, in any dimension, and for any domain shape. This mechanism partitions the system into weakly coupled subregions. The boundaries of these subregions correspond to the valleys of a hidden landscape that emerges from the interplay between the wave operator and the system geometry. The height of the landscape along its valleys determines the strength of the coupling between the subregions. The landscape and its impact on localization can be determined rigorously by solving one special boundary problem. This theory allows one to predict the localization properties, the confining regions, and to estimate the energy of the vibrational eigenmodes through the properties of one geometrical object. In particular, Anderson localization can be understood as a special case of weak localization in a very rough landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14761-14766
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
StatePublished - Sep 11 2012


  • Confinement
  • Eigenfunctions
  • Elliptic operator
  • Vibrations


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