CMT Seminar: Sebastian Huber

Title: A mechanical topological insulator

A topological insulator, as originally proposed for electrons governed by quantum mechanics, is characterized by a dichotomy between the interior and the edge of a finite system: The bulk has an energy gap, and the edges sustain excitations traversing this gap. However, it has remained an open question whether the same physics can be observed for systems obeying Newton's equations of motion. We conducted experiments to characterize the collective behavior of mechanical oscillators exhibiting the phenomenology of the quantum spin Hall effect. The phononic edge modes are shown to be helical, and we demonstrate their topological protection via the stability of the edge states against imperfections. Our results may enable the design of topological acoustic metamaterials that can capitalize on the stability of the surface phonons as reliable wave guides.