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Molecules and the Eigenstate Thermalization Hypothesis
We review a theory that predicts the onset of thermalization in a quantum mechanical coupled non-linear oscillator system, which models the vibrational degrees of freedom of a molecule. A system of N non-linear oscillators perturbed by cubic anharmonic interactions exhibits a many-body localization (MBL) transition in the vibrational state space (VSS) of the molecule. This transition can occur at rather high energy in a sizable molecule because the density of states coupled by cubic anharmonic terms scales as N-3, in marked contrast to the total density of states, which scales as exp(aN), where a is a constant. The emergence of a MBL transition in the VSS is seen by analysis of a random matrix ensemble that captures the locality of coupling in the VSS, referred to as local random matrix theory (LRMT). Upon introducing higher order anharmonicity, the location of the MBL transition of even a sizable molecule, such as an organic molecule with tens of atoms, still lies at an energy that may exceed the energy to surmount a barrier to reaction, such as a barrier to conformational change. Illustrative calculations are provided, and some recent work on the influence of thermalization on thermal conduction in molecular junctions is also discussed.