Photonic floquet topological insulators

Mikael C. Rechtsman, Julia M. Zeuner, Yonatan Plotnik, Yaakov Lumer, Daniel Podolsky, Felix Dreisow, Stefan Nolte, Mordechai Segev, Alexander Szameit

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


Topological insulators are a new phase of matter, with the striking property that conduction of electrons occurs only on the surface. In two dimensions, surface electrons in topological insulators do not scatter despite defects and disorder, providing robustness akin to superconductors. Topological insulators are predicted to have wideranging applications in fault-tolerant quantum computing and spintronics. Recently, large theoretical efforts were directed towards achieving topological insulation for electromagnetic waves. One-dimensional systems with topological edge states have been demonstrated, but these states are zero-dimensional, and therefore exhibit no transport properties. Topological protection of microwaves has been observed using a mechanism similar to the quantum Hall effect, by placing a gyromagnetic photonic crystal in an external magnetic field. However, since magnetic effects are very weak at optical frequencies, realizing photonic topological insulators with scatterfree edge states requires a fundamentally different mechanism - one that is free of magnetic fields. Recently, a number of proposals for photonic topological transport have been put forward. Specifically, one suggested temporally modulating a photonic crystal, thus breaking time-reversal symmetry and inducing one-way edge states. This is in the spirit of the proposed Floquet topological insulators, where temporal variations in solidstate systems induce topological edge states. Here, we propose and experimentally demonstrate the first external field-free photonic topological insulator with scatter-free edge transport: a photonic lattice exhibiting topologically protected transport of visible light on the lattice edges. Our system is composed of an array of evanescently coupled helical waveguides arranged in a graphene-like honeycomb lattice. Paraxial diffraction of light is described by a Schrödinger equation where the propagation coordinate acts as 'time'. Thus the waveguides' helicity breaks zreversal symmetry in the sense akin to Floquet Topological Insulators. This structure results in scatter-free, oneway edge states that are topologically protected from scattering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationActive Photonic Materials V
StatePublished - 2013
EventActive Photonic Materials V - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Aug 25 2013Aug 29 2013

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X
ISSN (Electronic)1996-756X


OtherActive Photonic Materials V
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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