Designing topological quantum matter in and out of equilibrium
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Recent advances in experimental condensed matter physics suggest a powerful new paradigm for the realization of exotic phases of quantum matter in the laboratory. Rather than conducting an exhaustive search for materials that realize these phases at low temperatures, it may be possible to design quantum systems that exhibit the desired properties. With the numerous advances made recently in the fields of cold atomic gases, superconducting qubits, trapped ions, and nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond, it appears that we will soon have a host of platforms that can be used to put exotic theoretical predictions to the test. In this dissertation, I will highlight two ways in which theorists can interact productively with this fast-emerging field. First, there is a growing interest in driving quantum systems out of equilibrium in order to induce novel topological phases where they would otherwise never appear. In particular, systems driven by time-periodic perturbations—known as “Floquet systems”—offer fertile ground for theoretical investigation. This approach to designer quantum matter brings its own unique set of challenges. In particular, Floquet systems explicitly violate conservation of energy, providing no notion of a ground state. In the first part of my dissertation, I will present research that addresses this problem in two ways. First, I will present studies of open Floquet systems, where coupling to an external reservoir drives the system into a steady state at long times. Second, I will discuss examples of isolated quantum systems that exhibit signatures of topological properties in their finite-time dynamics. The second part of this dissertation presents another way in which theorists can benefit from the designer approach to quantum matter; in particular, one can design analytically tractable theories of exotic phases. I will present an exemplar of this philosophy in the form of coupled-wire constructions. In this approach, one builds a topological state of matter from the ground up by coupling together an array of one-dimensional quantum wires with local interactions. I will demonstrate the power of this technique by showing how to build both Abelian and non-Abelian topological phases in three dimensions by coupling together an array of quantum wires.