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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: November 2013

5 - Perturbations of boundary conformal field theories


We have gathered quite a large amount of technology to construct conformal boundary conditions and study their properties. So far, most of the tools relied on detailed knowledge of the underlying algebraic structure of conformal field theories (CFTs), such as representations of symmetry algebras and modular transformations. In almost all cases, this route will lead to a restricted class of boundary conditions only, favouring those that preserve a lot of symmetry.

In “real life applications” of boundary CFT, arising in string theory, in condensed matter physics, or in the study of integrable models, we are often faced with situations where we start from a simple given boundary condition and then “deform” by “turning on perturbations”. In this chapter, we will discuss methods aimed at making this procedure well defined and at determining the perturbed boundary theory. Most of the time, we will restrict ourselves to pure boundary perturbations, which leave the bulk CFT untouched.

We will sometimes be led to new boundary conditions that would have been difficult to find directly. The total space of boundary CFTs takes the form of a fibration over the moduli space of bulk theories, with the fibre over each point made up from all boundary conditions (branes) that exist for that bulk theory. Marginal boundary deformations, if they exist, will generate, starting from a single boundary condition, whole continuous families within this boundary moduli space.