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Photonic topological insulators

Abstract

Recent progress in understanding the topological properties of condensed matter has led to the discovery of time-reversal-invariant topological insulators. A remarkable and useful property of these materials is that they support unidirectional spin-polarized propagation at their surfaces. Unfortunately topological insulators are rare among solid-state materials. Using suitably designed electromagnetic media (metamaterials) we theoretically demonstrate a photonic analogue of a topological insulator. We show that metacrystals—superlattices of metamaterials with judiciously designed properties—provide a platform for designing topologically non-trivial photonic states, similar to those that have been identified for condensed-matter topological insulators. The interfaces of the metacrystals support helical edge states that exhibit spin-polarized one-way propagation of photons, robust against disorder. Our results demonstrate the possibility of attaining one-way photon transport without application of external magnetic fields or breaking of time-reversal symmetry. Such spin-polarized one-way transport enables exotic spin-cloaked photon sources that do not obscure each other.

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Figure 1: Wave propagation in a 2D PTI.
Figure 2: One-way spin-polarized transport of photonic edge states.
Figure 3: Excitation of surface waves by a point dipole source at the interface between topologically trivial and non-trivial photonic insulators.
Figure 4: Non-obstructing large photon antennas due to spin-cloaking.

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Acknowledgements

A.B.K., S.H.M. and G.S. acknowledge financial support from the Office of Naval Research grant N00014-10-1-0929 and the NSF award PHY-0851614. A.H.M. and W.K.T. acknowledge support from DOE Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering grant DE-FG03-02ER45958. M.K. acknowledges support from ARO grant W911NF-09-1-0527 and NSF grant DMR-0955778. G.S. acknowledges enlightening communications with M. Segev.

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Correspondence to Alexander B. Khanikaev or Gennady Shvets.

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Khanikaev, A., Hossein Mousavi, S., Tse, WK. et al. Photonic topological insulators. Nature Mater 12, 233–239 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat3520

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