Milestone: realization of topological insulators

September 2016: QUIC has reached the first milestone on the realization of topological insulators just few weeks before the Nobel prize in Physics for 2016 to F. D. M. Haldane was announced!

Shortly before the kick-off of the QUIC project, the ETHZ group successfully realized a quantum simulation of the topological Haldane model in an experiment with ultracold fermionic potassium atoms. The Haldane model on a honeycomb lattice is a paradigmatic example of a Hamiltonian featuring topologically distinct phases of matter. It describes a mechanism through which a quantum Hall effect can appear as an intrinsic property of a band structure, rather than being caused by an external magnetic field. Although a physical implementation was considered unlikely when it was initially introduced, the Haldane model has provided the conceptual basis for theoretical and experimental research exploring topological insulators and superconductors. The Haldane model is based on breaking both time-reversal and inversion symmetries.

During the first phase of the QUIC project, and thanks to the subsequent work of the ETHZ group, the implications of this key result on the study of topological insulators with cold atoms have become apparent. This result contributes our confidence in the ultracold atom based platforms for the quantum simulation of frontier physical phenomena of global interest.

G. Jotzu, M. Messer, R. Desbuquois, M. Lebrat, T. Uehlinger, D. Greif, and T. Esslinger, Nature 515, 237–240 (2014).

F. D. M. Haldane, Phys. Rev. Lett. 61, 2015–2018 (1988).

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