Classification of crystalline topological insulators through $K$-theory
Volume 25, Issue 3 (2021), pp. 723–775
Pub. online: 21 March 2022 Type: Article
21 March 2022
21 March 2022
Topological phases for free fermions in systems with crystal symmetry are classified by the topology of the valence band viewed as a vector bundle over the Brillouin zone. Additional symmetries, such as crystal symmetries which act non-trivially on the Brillouin zone, or time-reversal symmetry, endow the vector bundle with extra structure. These vector bundles are classified by a suitable version of $K$-theory. While relatively easy to define, these $K$-theory groups are notoriously hard to compute in explicit examples. In this paper we describe in detail how one can compute these $K$-theory groups starting with a decomposition of the Brillouin zone in terms of simple submanifolds on which the symmetries act nicely. The main mathematical tool is the Atiyah–Hirzebruch spectral sequence associated to such a decomposition, which will not only yield the explicit result for several crystal symmetries, but also sheds light on the origin of the topological invariants. This extends results that have appeared in the literature so far.We also describe examples in which this approach fails to directly yield a conclusive answer, and discuss various open problems and directions for future research.