Strongly Interacting Topological Phases (15w5051)



(University of California, Santa Barbara)

(University of British Columbia)

(University of Toronto)


The Banff International Research Station will host the "Strongly Interacting Topological Phases" workshop from September 20th to September 25th, 2015.

Large collections of interacting electrons can exhibit profoundly richer behavior than that of a few---a general principle known as `more is different'. As a striking example, in some materials electrons can organize into so-called topological phases that defy traditional theories of matter in spectacular fashion. Their name derives from the branch of mathematics known as topology that quantifies properties of objects that are invariant under smooth distortions. Topological phases are, accordingly, insensitive to various microscopic details such as sample purity. More remarkable still are their unique physical properties. Some topological phases harbor emergent particles that carry fractions of an electron charge, despite the fact that electrons are indivisible! Others exhibit metallic states at their boundaries that can carry current without dissipation, in sharp contrast to ordinary resistive metals. These properties endow topological phases with vast technological promise in areas ranging from low-power electronics, to new generations of computers that use quantum mechanics to wildly outperform today's machines for certain tasks.

Our workshop brings together researchers from various disciplines---mathematical physics, theoretical and experimental materials science, and quantum information---to tackle fundamental questions raised by topological phases. In particular, we hope to break new ground in the understanding of these phases in situations where quantum mechanics and strong interactions between the particles in a material give rise to new kinds of topological phenomena. Understanding this regime offers great intellectual challenges to both theory and experiment, but also correspondingly great rewards. Indeed, exploration of this area can push the boundaries of our understanding of quantum mechanics and the organizing principles of nature, and simultaneously generate new technologies with potentially great societal impact.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).