Direct imaging of topological edges states with cold atoms

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N. Goldman, J. Dalibard, A. Dauphin, F. Gerbier, M. Lewenstein, P. Zoller, I. Spielman



etecting topological order in cold-atom experiments is an ongoing challenge, the resolution of which offers novel perspectives on topological matter. In material systems, unambiguous signatures of topological order exist for topological insulators and quantum Hall devices. In quantum Hall systems, the quantized conductivity and the associated robust propagating edge modes—guaranteed by the existence of nontrivial topological invariants—have been observed through transport and spectroscopy measurements. Here, we show that optical-lattice-based experiments can be tailored to directly visualize the propagation of topological edge modes. Our method is rooted in the unique capability for initially shaping the atomic gas and imaging its time evolution after suddenly removing the shaping potentials. Our scheme, applicable to an assortment of atomic topological phases, provides a method for imaging the dynamics of topological edge modes, directly revealing their angular velocity and spin structure.