Superior robustness of anomalous non-reciprocal topological edge states

Publication of LPENSL in the journal Nature on October 13, 2021.

Robustness against disorder and defects is a pivotal advantage of topological systems, manifested by the absence of electronic backscattering in the quantum-Hall and spin-Hall effects, and by unidirectional waveguiding in their classical analogues. Two-dimensional (2D) topological insulators, in particular, provide unprecedented opportunities in a variety of fields owing to their compact planar geometries, which are compatible with the fabrication technologies used in modern electronics and photonics. Among all 2D topological phases, Chern insulators are currently the most reliable designs owing to the genuine backscattering immunity of their non-reciprocal edge modes, brought via time-reversal symmetry breaking. Yet such resistance to fabrication tolerances is limited to fluctuations of the same order of magnitude as their bandgap, limiting their resilience to small perturbations only. Here we investigate the robustness problem in a system where edge transmission can survive disorder levels with strengths arbitrarily larger than the bandgap-an anomalous non-reciprocal topological network. We explore the general conditions needed to obtain such an unusual effect in systems made of unitary three-port non-reciprocal scatterers connected by phase links, and establish the superior robustness of anomalous edge transmission modes over Chern ones to phase-link disorder of arbitrarily large values. We confirm experimentally the exceptional resilience of the anomalous phase, and demonstrate its operation in various arbitrarily shaped disordered multi-port prototypes. Our results pave the way to efficient, arbitrary planar energy transport on 2D substrates for wave devices with full protection against large fabrication flaws or imperfections.

Reference:   . Zhe Zhang, Pierre Delplace & Romain Fleury. Nature volume 598, pages 293-297 (2021).

Read the article on arXiv.

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