Classical electromagnetic model of surface states in topological insulators

Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Tom G. MacKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


A topological insulator is classically modeled as an isotropic material with a magnetoelectric pseudoscalar Ψ existing in its bulk while its surface is charge free and current free. An alternative model is obtained by setting Ψ≡0 and incorporating surface charge and current densities characterized by an admittance γ. Analysis of planewave reflection and refraction due to a topological-insulator half space reveals that the parameters Ψ and γ arise identically in the reflection and transmission coefficients, implying that the two classical models cannot be distinguished on the basis of any scattering scenario. However, as Ψ disappears from the Maxwell equations applicable to any region occupied by the topological insulator, and because surface states exist on topological insulators as protected conducting states, the alternative model must be chosen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number033004
JournalJournal of Nanophotonics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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