Trapped fractional charges at bulk defects in topological insulators

Christopher W Peterson, Tianhe Li, Wentao Jiang, Taylor L Hughes, Gaurav Bahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Topological crystalline insulators (TCIs) can exhibit unusual, quantized electric phenomena such as fractional electric polarization and boundary-localized fractional charge1-6. This quantized fractional charge is the generic observable for identification of TCIs that lack clear spectral features5-7, including ones with higher-order topology8-11. It has been predicted that fractional charges can also manifest where crystallographic defects disrupt the lattice structure of TCIs, potentially providing a bulk probe of crystalline topology10,12-14. However, this capability has not yet been confirmed in experiments, given that measurements of charge distributions in TCIs have not been accessible until recently11. Here we experimentally demonstrate that disclination defects can robustly trap fractional charges in TCI metamaterials, and show that this trapped charge can indicate non-trivial, higher-order crystalline topology even in the absence of any spectral signatures. Furthermore, we uncover a connection between the trapped charge and the existence of topological bound states localized at these defects. We test the robustness of these topological features when the protective crystalline symmetry is broken, and find that a single robust bound state can be localized at each disclination alongside the fractional charge. Our results conclusively show that disclination defects in TCIs can strongly trap fractional charges as well as topological bound states, and demonstrate the primacy of fractional charge as a probe of crystalline topology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-380
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume589
Issue number7842
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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