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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Detecting Fractional Chern Insulators in Optical Lattices through Quantized Displacement


The realization of interacting topological states of matter such as fractional Chern insulators (FCIs) in cold atom systems has recently come within experimental reach due to the engineering of optical lattices with synthetic gauge fields providing the required topological band structures. However, detecting their occurrence might prove difficult since transport measurements akin to those in solid state systems are challenging to perform in cold atom setups and alternatives have to be found. We show that for a ν=1/2 FCI state realized in the lowest band of a Harper-Hofstadter model of interacting bosons confined by a harmonic trapping potential, the fractionally quantized Hall conductivity σ_{xy} can be accurately determined by the displacement of the atomic cloud under the action of a constant force which provides a suitable experimentally measurable signal for detecting the topological nature of the state. Using matrix-product state algorithms, we show that, in both cylinder and square geometries, the movement of the particle cloud in time under the application of a constant force field on top of the confining potential is proportional to σ_{xy} for an extended range of field strengths.

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