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From ray tracing to waves of topological origin in continuous media

Antoine Venaille, Yohei Onuki, Nicolas Perez, Armand Leclerc

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SciPost Phys. 14, 062 (2023) · published 5 April 2023


Continuous media commonly support a discrete number of wave modes that are trapped along interfaces defined by spatially varying parameters. In the case of multicomponent wave problems, those trapped modes fill a frequency gap between different wave bands. When they are robust against continuous deformations of parameters, such waves are said to be of topological origin. It has been realized over the last decades that waves of topological origin can be predicted by computing a single topological invariant, the first Chern number, in a dual bulk wave problem that is much simpler to solve than the original wave equation involving spatially varying coefficients. The correspondence between the simple bulk problem and the more complicated interface problem is usually justified by invoking an abstract index theorem. Here, by applying ray tracing machinery to the paradigmatic example of equatorial shallow water waves, we propose a physical interpretation of this correspondence. We first compute ray trajectories in the phase space given by position and wavenumber of the wave packet, using Wigner-Weyl transforms. We then apply a quantization condition to describe the spectral properties of the original wave operator. This bridges the gap between previous work by Littlejohn and Flynn showing manifestation of Berry curvature in ray tracing equations, and more recent studies that computed the Chern number of flow models by integrating the Berry curvature over a closed surface in parameter space. We find that an integral of Berry curvature over this closed surface emerges naturally from the quantization condition, which allows us to recover the bulk-interface correspondence.

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