Quantum phase transitions of topological insulators without gap closing

12 Aug 2016  ·  Rachel Stephan ·

We consider two-dimensional Chern insulators and time-reversal invariant topological insulators and discuss the effect of perturbations breaking either particle-number conservation or time-reversal symmetry. The appearance of trivial mass terms is expected to cause quantum phase transitions into trivial phases when such a perturbation overweights the topological term... These phase transitions are usually associated with a bulk-gap closing. In contrast, the chiral Chern insulator is unaffected by particle-number breaking perturbations. Moreover, the $\mathbb{Z}_2$ topological insulator undergoes phase transitions into topologically trivial phases without bulk-gap closing in the presence of any of such perturbations. In certain cases, these phase transitions can be circumvented and the protection restored by another U(1) symmetry, e.g. due to spin conservation. These findings are discussed in the context of interacting topological insulators. read more

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