Non-Hermitian skin effect beyond the tight-binding models

Longhi, Stefano
Physical Review B 104, 125109 (1-11) (2021)

The energy bands of non-Hermitian systems exhibit nontrivial topological features that arise from the complex nature of the energy spectrum. Under periodic boundary conditions (PBCs), the energy spectrum describes rather generally closed loops in complex plane, characterized by integer nonzero winding numbers. Such nontrivial winding provides the topological signature of the non-Hermitian skin effect (NHSE), i.e., the macroscopic condensation of bulk states at the lattice edges under open boundary conditions (OBCs). In spite of the great relevance of band winding in the non-Hermitian topological band theory and the related NHSE, most of current results rely on tight-binding models of non-Hermitian systems, while exact Bloch wave function analysis of the NHSE and related topological band theory is still lacking. While tight-binding models can correctly describe narrow-band electronic states with a relatively weak degree non-Hermiticity, they are not suited to describe high-energy wide-band electronic states and/or regimes corresponding to strong non-Hermiticity. Here we consider the single-particle continuous Schrödinger equation in a periodic potential, in which non-Hermiticity is introduced by an imaginary vector potential in the equation, and show that the NHSE is ubiquitous under OBC and characterized by a nonvanishing integer winding number, even though the energy spectrum under PBC always comprises an open curve, corresponding to high-energy electronic states. We also show that the interior of the PBC energy spectrum corresponds to the complex eigenenergies sustaining localized (edge) states under semi-infinite boundary conditions.

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