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Novel Topologically Ordered Phases of Condensed Matter

Professor Joel Moore, Berkeley University, USA

Date:  July 13, 2011   16:15 

Place: Seminarraum A348/349, Fakultät für Physik der LMU München, Theresienstr. 37, 80333 München

Much of condensed matter physics is concerned with understanding how different kinds of order emerge from interactions between a large number of simple constituents. In ordered phases such as crystals, magnets, and superfluids, the order is understood through "symmetry breaking": in a crystal, for example, the continuous symmetries of space under rotations and translations are not reflected in the ground state. A major discovery of the 1980s was that electrons confined to two dimensions and in a strong magnetic field exhibit a completely different, "topological" type of order that underlies the quantum Hall effect.

In the past few years, we have learned that topological order also occurs in some three-dimensional materials, dubbed "topological insulators", in zero magnetic field. Spin-orbit coupling, an intrinsic property of all solids, drives the formation of the topological state. This talk will explain what topological order means, how topological were predicted and discovered, and how they realize the "axion electrodynamics" studied by particle physicists in the 1980s. Some possible applications of these new materials are discussed in closing.