Response properties of axion insulators and Weyl semimetals driven by screw dislocations and dynamical axion strings

Yizhi You, Gil Young Cho, Taylor L. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we investigate the theory of dynamical axion strings emerging from chiral symmetry breaking in three-dimensional Weyl semimetals. The chiral symmetry is spontaneously broken by a charge density wave (CDW) order which opens an energy gap and converts the Weyl semimetal into an axion insulator. Indeed, the phase fluctuations of the CDW order parameter act as a dynamical axion field θ(xt) and couple to electromagnetic field via Lθ=θ(xt)32π2ϵστνμFστFνμ. Additionally, when the axion insulator is coupled to deformations of the background geometry/strain fields via torsional defects, e.g., screw dislocations, there is interesting interplay between the crystal dislocations and dynamical axion strings. For example, the screw dislocation traps axial charge, and there is a Berry phase accumulation when an axion string (which carries axial flux) is braided with a screw dislocation. In addition, a cubic coupling between the axial current and the geometry fields is nonvanishing and indicates a Berry phase accumulation during a particular three-loop braiding procedure where a dislocation loop is braided with another dislocation and they are both threaded by an axion string. We also observe a chiral magnetic effect induced by a screw dislocation density in the absence of a nodal energy imbalance between Weyl points and describe an additional chiral geometric effect and a geometric Witten effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number085102
JournalPhysical Review B
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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