TY - JOUR

T1 - SU(3) spin-orbit coupling in systems of ultracold atoms

AU - Barnett, Ryan

AU - Boyd, Greg R

AU - Galitski, Victor

PY - 2012/12/5

Y1 - 2012/12/5

N2 - Motivated by the recent experimental success in realizing synthetic spin-orbit coupling in ultracold atomic systems, we consider N-component atoms coupled to a non-Abelian SU(N) gauge field. More specifically, we focus on the case, referred to here as "SU(3) spin-orbit-coupling," where the internal states of three-component atoms are coupled to their momenta via a matrix structure that involves the Gell-Mann matrices (in contrast to the Pauli matrices in conventional SU(2) spin-orbit-coupled systems). It is shown that the SU(3) spin-orbit-coupling gives rise to qualitatively different phenomena and in particular we find that even a homogeneous SU(3) field on a simple square lattice enables a topologically nontrivial state to exist, while such SU(2) systems always have trivial topology. In deriving this result, we first establish an equivalence between the Hofstadter model with a 1/N Abelian flux per plaquette and a homogeneous SU(N) non-Abelian model. The former is known to have a topological spectrum for N > 2, which is thus inherited by the latter. It is explicitly verified by an exact calculation for N=3, where we develop and use a new algebraic method to calculate topological indices in the SU(3) case. Finally, we consider a strip geometry and establish the existence of three gapless edge states-the hallmark feature of such an SU(3) topological insulator.

AB - Motivated by the recent experimental success in realizing synthetic spin-orbit coupling in ultracold atomic systems, we consider N-component atoms coupled to a non-Abelian SU(N) gauge field. More specifically, we focus on the case, referred to here as "SU(3) spin-orbit-coupling," where the internal states of three-component atoms are coupled to their momenta via a matrix structure that involves the Gell-Mann matrices (in contrast to the Pauli matrices in conventional SU(2) spin-orbit-coupled systems). It is shown that the SU(3) spin-orbit-coupling gives rise to qualitatively different phenomena and in particular we find that even a homogeneous SU(3) field on a simple square lattice enables a topologically nontrivial state to exist, while such SU(2) systems always have trivial topology. In deriving this result, we first establish an equivalence between the Hofstadter model with a 1/N Abelian flux per plaquette and a homogeneous SU(N) non-Abelian model. The former is known to have a topological spectrum for N > 2, which is thus inherited by the latter. It is explicitly verified by an exact calculation for N=3, where we develop and use a new algebraic method to calculate topological indices in the SU(3) case. Finally, we consider a strip geometry and establish the existence of three gapless edge states-the hallmark feature of such an SU(3) topological insulator.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84870589570&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.235308

DO - 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.235308

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84870589570

VL - 109

SP - 1

EP - 5

JO - Physical Review Letters

JF - Physical Review Letters

SN - 0031-9007

IS - 23

M1 - 235308

ER -