Photonic Dirac monopoles and skyrmions: spin-1 quantization

Todd Van Mechelen and Zubin Jacob. 1/1/2019.

Photonic Dirac monopoles and skyrmions: spin-1 quantization

. Optical Materials Express, 9, 1, Pp. 95-111.
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See also: Photonics, Topological, Spin


We introduce the concept of a photonic Dirac monopole, appropriate for photonic crystals, metamaterials and 2D materials, by utilizing the Dirac-Maxwell correspondence. We start by exploring the vacuum where the reciprocal momentum space of both Maxwell’s equations and the massless Dirac equation (Weyl equation) possess a magnetic monopole. The critical distinction is the nature of magnetic monopole charges, which are integer valued for photons but half-integer for electrons. This inherent difference is directly tied to the spin and ultimately connects to the bosonic or fermionic behavior. We also show the presence of photonic Dirac strings, which are line singularities in the underlying Berry gauge potential. While the results in vacuum are intuitively expected, our central result is the application of this topological Dirac-Maxwell correspondence to 2D photonic (bosonic) materials, as opposed to conventional electronic (fermionic) materials. Intriguingly, within dispersive matter, the presence of photonic Dirac monopoles is captured by nonlocal quantum Hall conductivity–i.e., a spatiotemporally dispersive gyroelectric constant. For both 2D photonic and electronic media, the nontrivial topological phases emerge in the context of massive particles with broken time-reversal symmetry. However, the bulk dynamics of these bosonic and fermionic Chern insulators are characterized by spin-1 and spin-½ skyrmions in momentum space, which have fundamentally different interpretations. This is exemplified by their contrasting spin-1 and spin-½ helically quantized edge states. Our work sheds light on the recently proposed quantum gyroelectric phase of matter and the essential role of photon spin quantization in topological bosonic phases.

Last updated on 09/17/2021