Symmetric Gapped Interfaces of SPT and SET States: Systematic Constructions

Juven Wang, Xiao Gang Wen, Edward Witten

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101 Scopus citations


Symmetry-protected topological (SPT) states have boundary 't Hooft anomalies that obstruct the effective boundary theory realized in its own dimension with UV completion and with an on-site G-symmetry. In this work, yet we show that a certain anomalous non-on-site G-symmetry along the boundary becomes on-site when viewed as an extended H-symmetry, via a suitable group extension 1→K→H→G→1. Namely, a nonperturbative global (gauge or gravitational) anomaly in G becomes anomaly free in H. This guides us to construct an exactly soluble lattice path integral and Hamiltonian of symmetric gapped boundaries applicable to any SPT state of any finite symmetry group, including on-site unitary and antiunitary time-reversal symmetries. The resulting symmetric gapped boundary can be described either by an H-symmetry extended boundary in any spacetime dimension or, more naturally, by a topological emergent K-gauge theory with a global symmetry G on a 3+1D bulk or above. The excitations on such a symmetric topologically ordered boundary can carry fractional quantum numbers of the symmetry G, described by representations of H. (Applying our approach to a 1+1D boundary of 2+1D bulk, we find that a deconfined gauge boundary indeed has spontaneous symmetry breaking with long-range order. The deconfined symmetry-breaking phase crosses over smoothly to a confined phase without a phase transition.) In contrast to known gapped boundaries or interfaces obtained via symmetry breaking (either global symmetry breaking or the Anderson-Higgs mechanism for gauge theory), our approach is based on symmetry extension. More generally, applying our approach to SPT states, topologically ordered gauge theories, and symmetry enriched topologically ordered (SET) states leads to generic boundaries or interfaces constructed with a mixture of symmetry breaking, symmetry extension, and dynamical gauging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number031048
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 22 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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