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Chiral orbital order of interacting bosons without higher bands

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Version 2 2023-02-02, 17:00
Version 1 2023-01-12, 14:32
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posted on 2023-02-02, 17:00 authored by Marco Di Liberto, Nathan Goldman
Ultracold atoms loaded into higher Bloch bands provide an elegant setting for realizing many-body quantum states that spontaneously break time-reversal symmetry through the formation of chiral orbital order. The applicability of this strategy remains nonetheless limited due to the finite lifetime of atoms in high-energy bands. Here we introduce an alternative framework, suitable for bosonic gases, which builds on assembling square plaquettes pierced by a $\pi$-flux (half a magnetic-flux quantum). This setting is shown to be formally equivalent to an interacting bosonic gas loaded into $p$ orbitals, and we explore the consequences of the resulting chiral orbital order, both for weak and strong onsite interactions. We demonstrate the emergence of a chiral superfluid vortex lattice, exhibiting a long-lived gapped collective mode that is characterized by local chiral currents. This chiral superfluid phase is shown to undergo a phase transition to a chiral Mott insulator for sufficiently strong interactions. Our work establishes coupled $\pi$-flux plaquettes as a practical route for the emergence of orbital order and chiral phases of matter.

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