Almost all of us have experienced our phone getting hot when we use it for too long. This is because the resistance of materials like silicon causes energy to be lost to heat, a key challenge preventing progress in electronics and energy conservation. A revolutionary recent discovery in condensed matter physics promises to solve this problem by providing a mechanism for stabilising desirable material properties against microscopic imperfections. This mechanism is called topological robustness, and it can be compared to a recipe that consistently produces a pleasing meal even if the ingredients are not all quite right.
So far, finding topological materials relevant for breakthrough technological applications has turned out to be immensely challenging, both in the lab and in computer simulations. In our theoretical research, we are investigating new avenues for topological robustness both in natural materials composed of interacting electrons, as well as in artificial metamaterials with nonlinear behaviour, meaning that their response to incoming light is not proportional to the light’s intensity. We are also excited about the possibility of topological robustness in open quantum systems that constantly exchange energy and particles with their environment.