Robust zero-energy modes in an electronic higher-order topological insulator

S. N. Kempkes, M. R. Slot, J. J. van den Broeke, P. Capiod, W. A. Benalcazar, D. Vanmaekelbergh, D. Bercioux, I. Swart, C. Morais Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterAcademicpeer-review


Quantum simulators are essential tools for understanding complex quantum materials. Platforms based on ultracold atoms in optical lattices and photonic devices have led the field so far, but the basis for electronic quantum simulators is now being developed. Here, we experimentally realize an electronic higher-order topological insulator (HOTI). We create a breathing kagome lattice by manipulating carbon monoxide molecules on a Cu(111) surface using a scanning tunnelling microscope. We engineer alternating weak and strong bonds to show that a topological state emerges at the corner of the non-trivial configuration, but is absent in the trivial one. Different from conventional topological insulators, the topological state has two dimensions less than the bulk, denoting a HOTI. The corner mode is protected by a generalized chiral symmetry, which leads to a particular robustness against perturbations. Our versatile approach to designing artificial lattices holds promise for revealing unexpected quantum phases of matter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1292-1297
Number of pages6
JournalNature Materials
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2019


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