[PAST EVENT] Physics Colloquium

September 5, 2014
Small Hall, Room 111
300 Ukrop Way
Williamsburg, VA 23185Map this location
Entanglement is at the heart of quantum mechanics, the fundamental theory of our world. Yet, it is hardly ever seen in macroscopic collections of particles. We presently know of only one real system that is macroscopically entangled in a non-trivial way beyond any doubt. This is the two-dimensional electron gas in a magnetic field strong enough to produce fractional quantum Hall effect. Several other material families may also realize macroscopically entangled quantum states of strongly interacting electrons. This talk will be devoted to one such family, known as "topological insulators" (TIs), which recently became a world-wide research focus. More specifically, samarium hexaboride (SmB6) and its subfamily of Kondo (heavy fermion) insulators are the first promising candidates for strongly correlated TIs. I will present a neutron scattering experiment combined with field-theory calculations that indeed paint SmB6 as a correlated topological material. Then, I will discuss the rich physics of exotic symmetry breaking and electron fractionalization that one can anticipate in Kondo TIs. With some luck, these and similar materials may provide a new playground for exploring fundamental phenomena in nature, and perhaps even a new setting for topological quantum computation.