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Open Access Publications from the University of California

On the relationship between topological and geometric defects

  • Author(s): Griffin, SM
  • Spaldin, NA
  • et al.

© 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd. The study of topology in solids is undergoing a renaissance following renewed interest in the properties of ferroic domain walls as well as recent discoveries regarding skyrmionic lattices. Each of these systems possess a property that is 'protected' in a symmetry sense, and is defined rigorously using a branch of mathematics known as topology. In this article we review the formal definition of topological defects as they are classified in terms of homotopy theory, and discuss the precise symmetry-breaking conditions that lead to their formation. We distinguish topological defects from defects that arise from the details of the stacking or structure of the material but are not protected by symmetry, and we propose the term 'geometric defects' to describe the latter. We provide simple material examples of both topological and geometric defect types, and discuss the implications of the classification on the resulting material properties.

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