Optical lattices have an important role in advancing our understandingof correlated quantum matter. The recent implementation of orbital degrees of freedom in chequerboard1,2 and hexagonal3 optical lattices opens up a new avenue towards discovering novel quantum states of matter that have no prior analogues in solid-state electronic materials. Here, we predict that an exotic topological semimetal emerges as a parity-protected gapless state in the orbital bands of a two-dimensional fermionic optical lattice. This new quantum state is characterized by a parabolic band-degeneracy point with Berry flux 2π, in sharp contrast to the π flux of Dirac points as in graphene. We show that the appearance of this topological liquid is universal for all lattices with D4 point-group symmetry, as long as orbitals with opposite parities hybridize strongly with each other and the band degeneracy is protected by odd parity. Turning on inter-particle repulsive interactions, the system undergoes a phase transition to a topological insulator whose experimental signature includes chiral gapless domain-wall modes, reminiscent of quantum Hall edge states.
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We appreciate the very helpful discussions with L. Fu, C. L. Kane and X-L. Qi. The work of K.S. and S.D.S. is supported by JQI-NSF-PFC, AFOSR-MURI, ARO-DARPA-OLE, and ARO-MURI. W.V.L. is supported by ARO (W911NF-07-1-0293 and 11-1-0230), ARO-DARPA-OLE (W911NF-07-1-0464) and the National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No 2012CB922101). A.H. acknlowledges support by DFG-SFB925. We thank the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB for its hospitality where this research is supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant No. PHY05-51164.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Sun, K., Liu, W., Hemmerich, A. et al. Topological semimetal in a fermionic optical lattice. Nature Phys 8, 67–70 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys2134
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