Tutorial: Computing Topological Invariants in 2D Photonic Crystals

María Blanco de Paz, Chiara Devescovi, Geza Giedke, Juan José Saenz, Maia G. Vergniory, Barry Bradlyn, Dario Bercioux, Aitzol García-Etxarri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The field of topological photonics emerged as one of the most promising areas for applications in transformative technologies: possible applications are in topological lasers or quantum optics interfaces. Nevertheless, efficient and simple methods for diagnosing the topology of optical systems remain elusive for an important part of the community. Herein, a summary of numerical methods to calculate topological invariants emerging from the propagation of light in photonic crystals is provided. The fundamental properties of wave propagation in lattices with a space-dependent periodic electric permittivity is first described. Next, an introduction to topological invariants is provided, proposing an optimal strategy to calculate them through the numerical evaluation of Maxwell's equation in a discretized reciprocal space. Finally, the tutorial is complemented with a few practical examples of photonic crystal systems showing different topological properties, such as photonic valley-Chern insulators, photonic crystals presenting an “obstructed atomic limit”, photonic systems supporting fragile topology, and finally photonic Chern insulators, where the magnetic permeability is also periodically modulated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1900117
JournalAdvanced Quantum Technologies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Berry phase
  • Chern number
  • Wilson loop
  • numerical calculation
  • photonic topological invariants
  • topological photonics
  • valley Chern number

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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