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Physics
2021 Project Proposal

Mechanical topological insulators

Project Type - B - Flexible:  It will be in-person if we are allowed to have URSI students on campus, but it will become a remote project if not.

Topological insulators are a special kind of crystals that allow the existence of unidirectional currents at the quantum scale. This unidirectional current—also called edge state— has an exceptional ability: it is not disturbed by material imperfections. Then, these materials promise to be an important part of more efficient electronic devices. Unfortunately, the observation of the edge states in quantum systems require very sophisticated instruments.  Though, it was recently demonstrated that topological phases could exist even in classical devices, under the appropriate conditions. Actually, these conditions are met when the materials are engineered to emulate the properties of quantum systems. Nowadays there are reports of acoustic, photonic, and mechanical topological insulators. In the case of a mechanical topological insulator, a crystal lattice can be emulated by using an array of harmonic oscillators.  In this project, the student will implement a mechanical topological insulator. In particular, one- and two-dimensional cases will be under analysis. The design of the structures will be done by numerical simulations, while their fabrication will be performed by using 3D-printing techniques. It is expected that the results of this project find technological applications.

Prerequisites: Any student at Vassar has the skill required for this project. Though, it is an advantage to have the following knowledge:

  • Harmonic oscillators
  • Basic understanding of crystals
  • Basic quantum mechanics

Exceptional students without one of these requirements will be also considered.

How should students express interest in this project?  Students must submit their application to the URSI program. I will email the students that meet the requirements of the project to arrange an interview. After the interviews, I will email the selected student.

This is an 8-week project running from June 7 – July 31