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Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Jun 22;108(25):255303. Epub 2012 Jun 19.

Detecting chiral edge states in the Hofstadter optical lattice.

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Center for Nonlinear Phenomena and Complex Systems, Université Libre de Bruxelles, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.


We propose a realistic scheme to detect topological edge states in an optical lattice subjected to a synthetic magnetic field, based on a generalization of Bragg spectroscopy sensitive to angular momentum. We demonstrate that using a well-designed laser probe, the Bragg spectra provide an unambiguous signature of the topological edge states that establishes their chiral nature. This signature is present for a variety of boundaries, from a hard wall to a smooth harmonic potential added on top of the optical lattice. Experimentally, the Bragg signal should be very weak. To make it detectable, we introduce a "shelving method," based on Raman transitions, which transfers angular momentum and changes the internal atomic state simultaneously. This scheme allows us to detect the weak signal from the selected edge states on a dark background, and drastically improves the detectivity. It also leads to the possibility to directly visualize the topological edge states, using in situ imaging, offering a unique and instructive view on topological insulating phases.

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