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Physics Colloquium Series: Professor Bryce Gadway
(Physics Lecture Series) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Physics
“Building Artificial Materials from Atoms and Light”
The motion of electrons in materials is fundamentally influenced by the fact that the underlying medium is made from atomic ions arranged in a crystal lattice. The development of band theory for electrons in solids, which accounted for the effects of the crystal lattice, was central to the development of solid-state technologies over the past century. While in some ways quite mature, band theory has seen exciting new developments in recent decades with a new understanding emerging about interesting properties that can arise due to symmetries or other properties of a crystal — so called topological phases of matter. Metamaterials engineered to control the propagation of optical and acoustic waves have been some of the first to show how topology can influence wave transport in potentially useful ways. In addition to such analog systems based on classical wave propagation, researchers have also studied topological band structures for quantum particles, such as cold neutral atoms in optical lattices. I’ll discuss these various approaches to exploring the robust properties of topological states of matter, in particular an approach we have developed based on coupling together many quantum states of individual atoms and molecules.