Exact sign structure of the t - J chain and the single hole ground state

Injecting a single hole into a one-dimensional Heisenberg spin chain is probably the simplest case of doping a Mott insulator. The motion of such a single hole will generally induce a many-body phase shift, which can be identified by an exact sign structure of the model known as the phase string. We show that the sign structure is nontrivial even in this simplest problem, which is responsible for the essential properties of Mott physics. We find that the characteristic momentum structure, the Luttinger liquid behavior, and the quantum phase interference of the hole under a periodic boundary condition can all be attributed to it. We use the density matrix renormalization group (DMRG) numerical simulation to make a comparative study of the t-J chain and a model in which the sign structure is switched off. We further show that the key DMRG results can be reproduced by a variational wave function with incorporating the correct sign structure. Physical implications of the sign structure for doped Mott insulators in general are also discussed.