Maxwell plates and phonon fractionalization

15 Jul 2019  ·  Sun Kai, Mao Xiaoming ·

In the past a few years, topologically protected mechanical phenomena have been extensively studied in discrete lattices and networks, leading to a rich set of discoveries such as topological boundary/interface floppy modes and states of self stress, as well as one-way edge acoustic waves. In contrast, topological states in continuum elasticity without repeating unit cells remain largely unexplored, but offer wonderful opportunities for both new theories and broad applications in technologies, due to their great convenience of fabrication. In this paper we examine continuous elastic media on the verge of mechanical instability, extend Maxwell-Calladine index theorem to continua in the nonlinear regime, classify elastic media based on whether stress can be fully released, and identify two types of elastic media with topological states. The first type, which we name ``Maxwell plates'', are in strong analogy with Maxwell lattices, and exhibit a sub-extensive number of holographic floppy modes. The second type, which arise in thin plates with a small bending stiffness and a negative Gaussian curvature, exhibit fractional excitations and topological degeneracy, in strong analogy to $Z_2$ spin liquids and dimerized spin chains.

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Soft Condensed Matter Mesoscale and Nanoscale Physics Materials Science