PerspectiveTopological Matter

Lattices for fractional Chern insulators

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Science  06 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6384, pp. 31-32
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar5675

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Summary

Individual electrons are elementary particles, but in some solid-state systems, electrons can act collectively as though they had a fraction of an electron's charge. This emergent behavior is spectacularly observed in two-dimensional (2D) electron gases as the fractional quantum Hall (FQH) effect in the form of a fractional quantized transverse (or Hall) conductivity and in shot-noise experiments. These experiments require low temperatures and very large magnetic fields in order to create strong electron interactions. This latter condition now appears not to be as essential as originally thought. On page 62 of this issue, Spanton et al. (1) report on an experimental platform based on bilayer graphene that forms a moiré pattern with an encapsulating hexagonal boron nitride layer. They observed incompressible phases with a fractional filling of the band structure with a nonzero Chern number (it has quantized properties robust to local perturbations, or topologically invariant). Some of which have no analog in traditional FQH systems (see the figure).