Anatomy of skin modes and topology in non-Hermitian systems

Abstract

A non-Hermitian system can exhibit extensive sensitivity of its complex energy spectrum to the imposed boundary conditions, which is beyond any known phenomenon from Hermitian systems. In addition to topologically protected boundary modes, macroscopically many “skin” boundary modes may appear under open boundary conditions. We rigorously derive universal results for characterizing all avenues of boundary modes in non-Hermitian systems for arbitrary hopping ranges. For skin modes, we introduce how exact energies and decay lengths can be obtained by threading an imaginary flux. Furthermore, for one-dimensional topological boundary modes, we derive a generic criterion for their existence in non-Hermitian systems which, in contrast to previous formulations, does not require specific tailoring to the system at hand. Our approach is intimately based on the complex analytical properties of in-gap exceptional points, and gives a lower bound for the winding number related to the vorticity of the energy Riemann surface. It also reveals that the topologically nontrivial phase is partitioned into subregimes where the boundary mode's decay length depends differently on complex momenta roots.

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