SciPost Phys. 14, 118 (2023) ·
published 17 May 2023
Natural optical activity is the paradigmatic example of an effect originating in the weak spatial inhomogeneity of the electromagnetic field on the atomic scale. In molecules, such effects are well described by the multipole theory of electromagnetism, where the coupling to light is treated semiclassically beyond the electric-dipole approximation. That theory has two shortcomings: it is limited to bounded systems, and its building blocks -the multipole transition moments- are origin dependent. In this work, we recast the multipole theory in a translationally-invariant form that remains valid for crystals. Working in the independent-particle approximation, we introduce "intrinsic" multipole transition moments that are origin independent and transform covariantly under gauge transformations of the Bloch eigenstates. Electric-dipole transitions are given by the interband Berry connection, while magnetic-dipole and electric-quadrupole transitions are described by matrix generalizations of the intrinsic magnetic moment and quantum metric. In addition to multipole-like terms, the response of crystals at first order in the wavevector of light contains band-dispersion terms that have no counterpart in molecular theories. The full response is broken down into magnetoelectric and quadrupolar parts, which can be isolated in the static limit where electric and magnetic fields become decoupled. The rotatory-strength sum rule for crystals is found to be equivalent to the topological constraint for a vanishing chiral magnetic effect in equilibrium, and the formalism is validated by numerical tight-binding calculations.