Article | Open Access | Published:

Realizing Tao-Thouless-like state in fractional quantum spin Hall effect

Scientific Reports volume 6, Article number: 33472 (2016) | Download Citation


The quest for exotic quantum states of matter has become one of the most challenging tasks in modern condensed matter communications. Interplay between topology and strong electron-electron interactions leads to lots of fascinating effects since the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect. Here, we theoretically study the Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling effect on a fractional quantum spin Hall system by means of finite size exact diagonalization. Numerical evidences from the ground degeneracies, states evolutions, entanglement spectra, and static structure factor calculations demonstrate that non-trivial fractional topological Tao-Thouless-like quantum state can be realized in the fractional quantum spin Hall effect in a thin torus geometric structure by tuning the strength of spin-orbit coupling. Furthermore, the experimental realization of the Tao-Thouless-like state as well as its evolution in optical lattices are also proposed. The importance of this prediction provides significant insight into the realization of exotic topological quantum states in optical lattice, and also opens a route for exploring the exotic quantum states in condensed matters in future.


Since the discovery of spin-Hall effect in 20041,2, the study of spin-orbit coupling effects on quantum physics has been triggered great research interests both in condensed matter community and material science in this decade, especially fueled by the realization of the time reversal invariant topological insulators3,4 and Weyl semimetals5,6, leading to the most challenging task of the search for exotic quantum states and their realizations in modern condensed matter physics. Learned from the physics of fractional quantum Hall effects7, interplay between topology and strong electron-electron interactions displays lots of fascinating effects. The prominent fractional quantum Hall states occurring at certain unique values of the filling factor , k integer, have been explained by Laughlin as an “incompressible quantum fluid state”8. Subsequently, Tao and Thouless9 proposed an alternative ground state with a gap to excitations, which has a charge-density-wave (CDW)-like structure and can be connected to the Laughlin’s state by an adiabatic change of the aspect ratio 10,11,12,13,14 without undergoing a quantum phase transition. Namely, Tao-Thouless state is the exact ground state once Nx → O(1). In addition, the stripe formation of conventional CDW state in a fractional quantum Hall system has also been argued for systems with even denominator filling factors15,16,17,18. It is crucial to point out that the main difference between conventional CDW and Tao-Thouless states is that the latter state associates non-vanished fractional quantum Hall conductance, while the former one does not. Importantly, these studies show the richness of quasiparticle phases in the fractional quantum Hall systems.

In recent years, the fractional quantum (spin) Hall effects19,20 have been realized theoretically in the fractional Chern insulators21,22,23,24 without an external magnetic field, where strongly interacting particles partially fill up the topological flat-band with nonzero Chern number21,25,26. The stability of the edge states in fractional quantum spin Hall systems against interactions and disorders was analyzed by Levin and Stern20: A criterion σsH/e* (σsH the spin Hall conductance and e* the Abelian quasi-particles of charge), is proposed to determine whether the system is a non-trivial fractional topological insulator or not. Neupert et al.27 studied the stability of fermionic fractional topological insulating phase with the filling factor and pointed out that the system favors a fractional quantum spin Hall state for two decoupled spin species, but it should lead to an unstable fractional topological insulating phase according to Levin and Stern’s criterion. In fact, the fractional quantum spin Hall effect can possess fractionalized excitations in the bulk irrespective of the existence of gapless edge modes28. Moreover, by tuning the inter-spin interaction, the fractional quantum spin Hall state evolves into a conventional CDW stripe phase27,28,29,30 through a phase transition signalled by the closing of energy and quasi-spin excitation gaps30. Furthermore, Bosonic analogues of those fractional topological insulators have also been extensively studied by Repellin et al.31, and were found to be robust to perturbations in the bulk by introducing a spin-orbit coupling.

In this Letter, we propose a theoretical realization of fractionalized topological Tao-Thouless-like quantum state in a fractional quantum spin Hall system with a thin torus geometric structure by tuning the strength of Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling based on the framework of finite size exact diagonalization method. The obtained Tao-Thouless-like state has the property of time reversal symmetry, which is a counterpart of Tao-Thouless state in fractional quantum Hall systems9 or in fractional Chern insulators32 with time reversal symmetry breaking. Additionally, we also present a discussion of the possible experimental realization and detection of the Tao-Thouless-like topological quantum state as well as its evolution in optical lattices.


The dispersion of single-particle bands

The single-particle band dispersion of the Hamiltonian (see model Hamiltonian in Methods) on the system with torus and cylinder structures are shown in Fig. 1(b,c), which have a large bulk energy gap with the amplitude of 2t1 well separating the two spin-mixed flat-bands and conduction bands. Introducing the spin-orbit coupling the system still keeps the time reversal invariance but the inversion symmetry is broken, the two spin degenerate flat-bands will be split [see Fig. 1(d)] except at the time reversal invariant points. It is interesting to point out that there are some helical edge states emerging inside the bulk energy gap and crossing each other at the Γ(kx = 0) point forming the Dirac-like dispersion relation protected by time reversal symmetry, similar to the band structure of a topological band insulator33. As the bulk energy gap is much larger than the energy scale of the interactions, we can safely project Hamiltonian onto the states in the lowest two spin-mixed flat-bands in the exact diagonalization using a torus geometric structure. The repulsive interaction defined in Hamiltonian (1) (see model Hamiltonian in Methods) include a NN term which is parameterized by the coupling V and the dimensionless number λ. Previous studies27,28,29,30 have pointed out that the system favors a fractional quantum spin Hall and a conventional CDW stripe phases at small and large values λ of interspin interaction.

Figure 1: Lattice structure and electronic behaviours of single-particle Hamiltonian.
Figure 1

(a) The checkerboard lattice structure of the flat-bands model, with arrows and (solid and dashed) lines representing the NN and NNN hoppings, respectively. The direction of the arrow shows the sign of the phase in the NN hopping terms. Two of the NNN hoppings are shown as the dashed curve. By putting the system on a torus and a cylinder, the single-particle energy dispersion with the strength of Rashba spin-orbit coupling αR = 0.08 are shown in (b,c), respectively. In (c), the helical edge states (green lines) protected by time reversal symmetry are observed. (d) The density of states (DOS) on a torus structure with Rashba spin-orbit coupling αR = 0.0 and αR = 0.08.

The ground state properties of many-body Hamiltonian

The ground state spectra of the effect of the Rashba spin-orbit coupling αR (see model Hamiltonian in Methods) on a fractional quantum spin Hall state are displayed in the top row of Fig. 2, where the parameters are chosen as αR = 0 and αR = 0.08 for (a1) and (b1), respectively, and shown that the ground state manifold is defined as a set of lowest states [nine-fold degeneracies in (a1) and three-fold degeneracies in (b1)] well separated from other excited states by a clear energy gap. Here it should be pointed out that the results [Fig. 2(a1] have been reported in our previous studies (see refs 29 and 30), we still present here to facilitate the following discussion concerned to the state evolution by applying the effect of spin-orbit coupling on the fractional quantum spin Hall state. From Fig. 2(a1, we also notice that the energy gap is always significantly larger than the energy splitting of the ground states for various system sizes. Although these states are not exactly degenerate on a finite system, their energy difference should fall off exponentially as the system size increases. In addition, it is interesting to find that for those states with three-fold or nine-fold degeneracy, if (kx, ky) is the momentum sector for one of the states in the ground states manifold, then the other state should be obtained in the sector (kx + Ne, ky + Ne) [modulo (Nx, Ny)], similar to that in fractional Chern insulators22. The relationship of the quantum numbers of the ground states manifold steams from the topological nontrivial characteristics27,30, which can be confirmed by the calculations of spectral flow [see the supplementary information (SI) for details].

Figure 2: Ground state degeneracies and entanglement spectra of many-body Hamiltonian.
Figure 2

(Top row) Ground state degeneracies for a system size Ns = 2 × Nx(=2) × Ny(=6), and the PES probing the NA = 3 quasihole excitations for the Ne = 8 particles for a system size, (second row) Ns = 2 × Nx(=2) × Ny(=6), and (bottom row) Ns = 2 × Nx(=4) × Ny(=3). The Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling parameter αR = 0 for ninefold state on the left column (a), and αR = 0.08 for threefold state on the right column (b). In (a2,a3,b3), the states below the PES gap match the fractional quantum spin Hall state counting rule, while the one in (b2) matches the counting rule for a conventional CDW state.

Entanglement spectra of ground states

We turn to reveal the nature of these states shown in the top row of Fig. 2 by using a powerful tool of particle entanglement spectra (PES)23,34,35,36,37, which provides an independent signature of the excitation structure of system as a fingerprint and remaining their characteristics in the thermodynamic limit. The entanglement energy levels ξ can then be displayed in groups labeled by the total momentum (kx, ky) for the NA particles, and shown in Fig. 2(a2. When the entanglement spectrum is gapped, the number of states below the gap is a signature of a given topological phase, which is tightly related to the number of quasi-hole excitations, a hallmark of the fractional phase23,31,38. In our previous study29, we have demonstrated the nature of fractional quantum spin Hall state in Fig. 2(a2), which follows the counting rule of fractional quantum spin Hall state30,31. However, in Fig. 2(b2), the number of states below the gap of PES equalling to 168 deviates from the counting rule of fractional quantum spin Hall state, but precisely matches the conventional CDW counting32,39: . Therefore, this result suggests that such state is a conventional CDW or CDW-like state.

To further well-understood the behaviors of the state shown in Fig. 2(b1), we adopt the aspect ratio dependent calculation of the PES. By tuning the aspect ratio in a fixed system size from a thin torus to a more two dimensional one , the calculated PES are shown in Fig. 2(a3. As a reference, we compare with Fig. 2(a2, and notice that the PES for the fractional quantum spin Hall state in both cases clearly display the similar gapped structure as well as sharing the same counting numbers below the gap of PES, as expected from our intuition. Moreover, comparing with Fig. 2(b2 as well as (a3), it is surprised that since changing the aspect ratio to a more two dimensional torus the structure of PES in Fig. 2(b3) is similar to that in Fig. 2(a3) rather than that in Fig. 2(b2), and the states below the gap of PES in Fig. 2(b3) is no long matching the conventional CDW counting instead by the one for fractional quantum spin Hall state. Therefore, it suggests that such CDW-like phase obtained in a thin torus geometric structure is indeed the Tao-Thouless-like state signalled by connecting to fractional quantum spin Hall state through an adiabatic change of the aspect ratio [see Fig. 2(b2] and evolved from fractional quantum spin Hall state without undergoing a quantum phase transition (see SI for details).

Static structure factor

In addition, we also present the static structure factor (SSF) calculations to further solidify our findings, and shown in Fig. 3(a). It is clearly shown that the Tao-Thouless-like state has a typical feature of CDW stripe order displaying the double unidirectional Bragg peaks aligned along the x-direction appeared at momenta q = Q1 [=(0, 2)] and Q2[=(0, 4)] in the SSF Sq calculation with the Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling strength αR = 0.08 in the thin torus geometric structure with . Furthermore, by tuning the aspect ratio γ to a more two dimensional torus geometric structure , shown in Fig. 3(b), the double unidirectional peaks in SSF Sq calculation of the Tao-Thouless-like state is disappeared and instead by a featureless characteristic. By comparison with the featureless in SSF Sq calculation of the fractional quantum spin Hall state29, it suggests the phase, which is sensitive to the shape of lattice geometric structure, is indeed a Tao-Thouless-like state. All these obtained results are consistent with expected from the PES calculations and further solidify our findings.

Figure 3: Static structure factor of ground state of many-body Hamiltonian.
Figure 3

The SSF calculations Sq with various Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling parameter αR for a system size (a) Ns = 2 × Nx(=2) × Ny(=6) and (b) Ns = 2 × Nx(=4) × Ny(=3).

Experimental realizations

We propose an experimental realization of state of Tao-Thouless-like in future. Interestingly, it might be to study the spin-orbit coupling effect on the fractional quantum spin Hall state and obtain the state evolution. Very recently, a scheme of direct experimental realization of Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling40 and topological Haldane model41 in optical lattices was proposed, which might be helpful to establish the spin-orbit coupling effects on the flat-bands model with time reversal symmetry or equivalent bilayer flat-bands model in experiments42. Considering the interaction strength can be easily tuned in cold atom setups, our work will provide guidance for the experimental realization of the Tao-Thouless-like state and its evolution as well as exciting many-body fractional topological phases.


Model Hamiltonian

We start with a theoretical model Hamiltonian of electrons on a checkerboard lattice29,30 shown in Fig. 1(a):where consists of two copies of π-flux phase with flat-bands as in ref. 26, and is the density operator on the site i with spin σ(=↑, ↓). In the single-particle part Hamiltonian , we denote as the creation operator for an electron with lattice momentum k and spin σ in the sublattice α = A, B, and we introduce a spinor . Then, the second quantized single-particle Hamiltonian readswhere the three vectors Bk are respectively defined asthe identity and the triplet Pauli matrices τ = (τ0, τ1, τ2, τ3) act on the sublattice index. The parameters t1, t2, and t3 represent the nearest neighbor (NN) hopping, next-nearest-neighboring (NNN) hopping, and next-next nearest neighbor (third-NN) hopping amplitudes, respectively. In addition, the second term in Hamiltonian (1) describes the Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling and has the form43,44:where αR represents the strength of the Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling, δx and δy are the unit vectors along the and directions shown in Fig. 1(a).

Many-body exact diagonalization

We exactly diagonalize the many-body Hamiltonian (1) projected to the lowest two flat-bands for a finite system with Nx × Ny unit cell (total number of sites Ns = 2 × Nx × Ny) shown in Fig. 1(a). We denote the number of fermions as Ne, and filling factor as . Because of the periodic boundary condition implementing translational symmetries, we diagonalize the system Hamiltonian in each total momentum sector with (kx, ky) as integer quantum numbers. Without loss of generality, we set the t1 as an energy unit and the interaction V = 1, λ = 0, and the filling factor throughout this paper. Similar results for -filling states can also be easily obtained when the NNN repulsion is included (see the SI for details).

Entanglement spectra

We partition the system in the way as described in ref. 23 and divide the Ne particles into two subsystems of NA and NB particles, and trace out the degrees of freedom carried by the NB particles. The eigenvalues eξ of the resulting reduced density matrix ρA = TrBρ, where is defined in a d-fold [nine-fold in Fig. 2(a1) and three-fold in Fig. 2(b1)] degenerate state |Ψi〉.

Static structure factor

The static structure factor is defined30,45,46,47 asthe indicates the density at site j projected onto the lowest two flat-bands of single-particle Hamiltonian, and the wave function |Ψ〉 is incoherent summation over the degenerate ground states.

Additional Information

How to cite this article: Liu, C.-R. et al. Realizing Tao-Thouless-like state in fractional quantum spin Hall effect. Sci. Rep. 6, 33472; doi: 10.1038/srep33472 (2016).


  1. 1.

    , , & Observation of the Spin Hall Effect in Semiconductors. Science 306, 1910–1913 (2004).

  2. 2.

    , , & Experimental Observation of the Spin-Hall Effect in a Two-Dimensional Spin-Orbit Coupled Semiconductor System. Phys. Rev. Lett. 94, 047204 (2005).

  3. 3.

    & Colloquium: Topological insulators. Rev. Mod. Phys. 82, 3045 (2010).

  4. 4.

    & Topological insulators and superconductors. Rev. Mod. Phys. 83, 1057 (2011).

  5. 5.

    , , & Topological semimetal and Fermi-arc surface states in the electronic structure of pyrochlore iridates. Phys. Rev. B 83, 205101 (2011).

  6. 6.

    et al. Type-II Weyl semimetals. Nature 527, 495–498 (2015).

  7. 7.

    et al. Fractional Quantization of the Hall Effect. Phys. Rev. Lett. 50, 1953 (1983).

  8. 8.

    Anomalous Quantum Hall Effect: An Incompressible Quantum Fluid with Fractionally Charged Excitations. Phys. Rev. Lett. 50, 1395 (1983).

  9. 9.

    & Fractional quantization of Hall conductance. Phys. Rev. B 28, 1142 (1983).

  10. 10.

    & Laughlin state on stretched and squeezed cylinders and edge excitations in the quantum Hall effect. Phys. Rev. B 50, 17199 (1994).

  11. 11.

    & Half-Filled Lowest Landau Level on a Thin Torus. Phys. Rev. Lett. 94, 026802 (2005).

  12. 12.

    & Domain-wall-type defects as anyons in phase space. Phys. Rev. B 76, 155101 (2007).

  13. 13.

    & Quantum Hall system in Tao-Thouless limit. Phys. Rev. B. 77, 155308 (2008).

  14. 14.

    & Tao-Thouless Revisited. arXiv: 0907.0672 (2009).

  15. 15.

    , & Charge Density Wave in Two-Dimensional Electron Liquid in Weak Magnetic Field. Phys. Rev. Lett. 76, 499 (1996).

  16. 16.

    & Exact results for interacting electrons in high Landau levels. Phys. Rev. B 54, 5006 (1996).

  17. 17.

    , & Charge-Density-Wave Ordering in Half-Filled High Landau Levels. Phys. Rev. Lett. 83, 1219 (1999).

  18. 18.

    , & Stripe Formation in the Fractional Quantum Hall Regime. Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 256803 (2001).

  19. 19.

    & Quantum Spin Hall Effect. Phys. Rev. Lett. 96, 106802 (2006).

  20. 20.

    & Fractional Topological Insulators. Phys. Rev. Lett. 103, 196803 (2009).

  21. 21.

    , , & Fractional Quantum Hall States at Zero Magnetic Field. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 236804 (2011).

  22. 22.

    , , & Fractional quantum Hall effect in the absence of Landau levels. Nat. Commun. 2, 389 (2011).

  23. 23.

    & Fractional Chern Insulator. Phys. Rev. X 1, 021014 (2011).

  24. 24.

    Generic Wave-Function Description of Fractional Quantum Anomalous Hall States and Fractional Topological Insulators. Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 126803 (2011).

  25. 25.

    , & High-Temperature Fractional Quantum Hall States. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 236802 (2011).

  26. 26.

    , , & Nearly Flatbands with Nontrivial Topology. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 236803 (2011).

  27. 27.

    , , , & Fractional topological liquids with time-reversal symmetry and their lattice realization. Phys. Rev. B 84, 165107 (2011).

  28. 28.

    , , , & Fractional (Chern and topological) insulators. Phys. Scr. T164, 014005 (2015).

  29. 29.

    & Charge-density-wave stripe state in fractional quantum spin Hall effects. Europhys. Lett. 113, 47001 (2016).

  30. 30.

    , , & Fractional quantum spin Hall effect in flat-band checkerboard lattice model. Phys. Rev. B 90, 081102(R) (2014).

  31. 31.

    , & Z2 fractional topological insulators in two dimensions. Phys. Rev. B 90, 245401 (2014).

  32. 32.

    & Thin-Torus Limit of Fractional Topological Insulators. arXiv: 1204.5682 (2012).

  33. 33.

    & Quantum Spin Hall Effect in Graphene. Phys. Rev. Lett. 95, 226801 (2005).

  34. 34.

    & Entanglement Spectrum as a Generalization of Entanglement Entropy: Identification of Topological Order in Non-Abelian Fractional Quantum Hall Effect States. Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 010504 (2008).

  35. 35.

    , , & Entanglement Gap and a New Principle of Adiabatic Continuity. Phys. Rev. Lett. 104, 180502 (2010).

  36. 36.

    , & Extracting Excitations from Model State Entanglement. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 100405 (2011).

  37. 37.

    , , & Haldane statistics in the finite-size entanglement spectra of 1/m fractional quantum Hall states. Phys. Rev. B 84, 121309(R) (2011).

  38. 38.

    , , & Series of Abelian and non-Abelian states in C > 1 fractional Chern insulators. Phys. Rev. B 87, 205137 (2013).

  39. 39.

    & Fractional topological phase in one-dimensional flat bands with nontrivial topology. Phys. Rev. B 88, 035139 (2013).

  40. 40.

    & SpinCorbit coupling in quantum gases. Nature 494, 49–54 (2013).

  41. 41.

    et al. Experimental realization of the topological Haldane model with ultracold fermions. Nature 515, 237–240 (2014).

  42. 42.

    & Fibonacci Anyons From Abelian Bilayer Quantum Hall States. Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 236804 (2014).

  43. 43.

    & A simple tight-binding model of spinCorbit splitting of sp-derived surface states. Surface Science 459, 49–56 (2000).

  44. 44.

    Spin-Orbit Coupling Effects in Two-Dimensional Electron and Hole Systems (Springer, Berlin, 2003).

  45. 45.

    , & Fractional Chern insulator on a triangular lattice of strongly correlated t2g electrons. Phys. Rev. B 86, 235118 (2012).

  46. 46.

    & Reordering fractional Chern insulators into stripes of fractional charges with long-range interactions. Phys. Rev. B 92, 035138 (2015).

  47. 47.

    , , & Exotic fractional topological states in a two-dimensional organometallic material. Phys. Rev. B 89, 125411 (2014).

Download references


We thank D. N. Sheng, Y. S. Wu, and S. Q. Shen for helpful discussions. This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program (B) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB04040300), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 11274069, 11404359, and 11474064), and the State Key Programs of China (Grant No. 2012CB921604). W.L. also gratefully acknowledges the financial Sponsored by Shanghai Yang-Fan Program (Grant No. 14YF1407100) and Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Author information

Author notes

    • Chen-Rong Liu
    •  & Yao-Wu Guo

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Department of Physics and State Key Laboratory of Surface Physics, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China

    • Chen-Rong Liu
    • , Yao-Wu Guo
    •  & Yan Chen
  2. State Key Laboratory of Functional Materials for Informatics and Shanghai Center for Superconductivity, Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 200050, China

    • Zhuo-Jun Li
    •  & Wei Li
  3. CAS Center for Excellence in Superconducting Electronics, Shanghai 200050, China

    • Zhuo-Jun Li
    •  & Wei Li
  4. Collaborative Innovation Center of Advanced Microstructures, Nanjing 210093, China

    • Yan Chen


  1. Search for Chen-Rong Liu in:

  2. Search for Yao-Wu Guo in:

  3. Search for Zhuo-Jun Li in:

  4. Search for Wei Li in:

  5. Search for Yan Chen in:


W.L. and C.-R.L. performed the theoretical calculation; W.L. and Y.W.G. wrote the supplemental information; W.L., Z.-J.L. and Y.C. discussed the theoretical results; W.L. wrote the paper; W.L. and Y.C. revised the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Wei Li or Yan Chen.

Supplementary information

About this article

Publication history





Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.