Topology and Edge Modes in Quantum Critical Chains

Ruben Verresen, Nick G. Jones, Frank Pollmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
525 Downloads (Pure)


We show that topology can protect exponentially localized, zero energy edge modes at critical points between one-dimensional symmetry-protected topological phases. This is possible even without gapped degrees of freedom in the bulk - in contrast to recent work on edge modes in gapless chains. We present an intuitive picture for the existence of these edge modes in the case of noninteracting spinless fermions with time-reversal symmetry (BDI class of the tenfold way). The stability of this phenomenon relies on a topological invariant defined in terms of a complex function, counting its zeros and poles inside the unit circle. This invariant can prevent two models described by the same conformal field theory (CFT) from being smoothly connected. A full classification of critical phases in the noninteracting BDI class is obtained: Each phase is labeled by the central charge of the CFT, c-12N, and the topological invariant, ω-Z. Moreover, c is determined by the difference in the number of edge modes between the phases neighboring the transition. Numerical simulations show that the topological edge modes of critical chains can be stable in the presence of interactions and disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Article number057001
Number of pages5
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number5
Early online date31 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2018


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