We revisit a venerable question: what is the nature of the ordering in a superconductor? We find that the answer is properly that the superconducting state exhibits topological order in the sense of Wen, i.e., that while it lacks a local order parameter, it is sensitive to the global topology of the underlying manifold and exhibits an associated fractionalization of quantum numbers. We show that this perspective unifies a number of previous observations on superconductors and their low lying excitations and that this complex can be elegantly summarized in a purely topological action of the "BF" type and its elementary quantization. On manifolds with boundaries, the BF action correctly predicts non-chiral edge states, gapped in general, but crucial for fractionalization and establishing the ground state degeneracy. In all of this the role of the physical electromagnetic fields is central. We also observe that the BF action describes the topological order in several other physically distinct systems thus providing an example of topological universality.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
- Fractional Hall effect
- Gauge theories
- Spin liquids