Emergent Space-Time Supersymmetry at the Boundary of a Topological Phase

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Science  18 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6181, pp. 280-283
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248253

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Hope for SUSY?

Supersymmetry (SUSY), the symmetry between fermions, particles that form matter, and bosons, which mediate the interactions between them, has been proposed as one of the more likely extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics; however, it has so far received little experimental support. Condensed matter systems, such as the superfluid helium-3, may save the concept. In preparation for experimentation, Grover et al. (p. 280, published online 3 April) develop a theoretical approach that suggests SUSY describes the quantum phase transition on the boundary of a topological superconductor between a magnetic phase characterized by a bosonic order parameter and a neighboring phase hosting Majorana fermions.


In contrast to ordinary symmetries, supersymmetry (SUSY) interchanges bosons and fermions. Originally proposed as a symmetry of our universe, it still awaits experimental verification. Here, we theoretically show that SUSY emerges naturally in condensed matter systems known as topological superconductors. We argue that the quantum phase transitions at the boundary of topological superconductors in both two and three dimensions display SUSY when probed at long distances and times. Experimental consequences include exact relations between quantities measured in disparate experiments and, in some cases, exact knowledge of the universal critical exponents. The topological surface states themselves may be interpreted as arising from spontaneously broken SUSY, indicating a deep relation between topological phases and SUSY.

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