Research ArticlePHYSICS

Observation of symmetry-protected topological band with ultracold fermions

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Science Advances  23 Feb 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 2, eaao4748
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao4748

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Symmetry plays a fundamental role in understanding complex quantum matter, particularly in classifying topological quantum phases, which have attracted great interests in the recent decade. An outstanding example is the time-reversal invariant topological insulator, a symmetry-protected topological (SPT) phase in the symplectic class of the Altland-Zirnbauer classification. We report the observation for ultracold atoms of a noninteracting SPT band in a one-dimensional optical lattice and study quench dynamics between topologically distinct regimes. The observed SPT band can be protected by a magnetic group and a nonlocal chiral symmetry, with the band topology being measured via Bloch states at symmetric momenta. The topology also resides in far-from-equilibrium spin dynamics, which are predicted and observed in experiment to exhibit qualitatively distinct behaviors in quenching to trivial and nontrivial regimes, revealing two fundamental types of spin-relaxation dynamics related to bulk topology. This work opens the way to expanding the scope of SPT physics with ultracold atoms and studying nonequilibrium quantum dynamics in these exotic systems.

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