Measuring Z2 topological invariants in optical lattices using interferometry

F. Grusdt, D. Abanin, E. Demler

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39 Scopus citations


We propose an interferometric method to measure Z2 topological invariants of time-reversal invariant topological insulators realized with optical lattices in two and three dimensions. We suggest two schemes which both rely on a combination of Bloch oscillations with Ramsey interferometry and can be implemented using standard tools of atomic physics. In contrast to topological Zak phase and Chern number, defined for individual one-dimensional and two-dimensional Bloch bands, the formulation of the Z2 invariant involves at least two Bloch bands related by time-reversal symmetry which one must keep track of in measurements. In one of our schemes this can be achieved by the measurement of Wilson loops, which are non-Abelian generalizations of Zak phases. The winding of their eigenvalues is related to the Z2 invariant. We thereby demonstrate that Wilson loops are not just theoretical concepts but can be measured experimentally. For the second scheme we introduce a generalization of time-reversal polarization which is continuous throughout the Brillouin zone. We show that its winding over half the Brillouin zone yields the Z2 invariant. To measure this winding, our protocol only requires Bloch oscillations within a single band, supplemented by coherent transitions to a second band which can be realized by lattice shaking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043621
JournalPhysical Review A - Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 24 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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