The European Physical Journal B

, Volume 79, Issue 2, pp 121–137

The insulating state of matter: a geometrical theory


DOI: 10.1140/epjb/e2010-10874-4

Cite this article as:
Resta, R. Eur. Phys. J. B (2011) 79: 121. doi:10.1140/epjb/e2010-10874-4


In 1964 Kohn published the milestone paper “Theory of the insulating state”, according to which insulators and metals differ in their ground state. Even before the system is excited by any probe, a different organization of the electrons is present in the ground state and this is the key feature discriminating between insulators and metals. However, the theory of the insulating state remained somewhat incomplete until the late 1990s; this review addresses the recent developments. The many-body ground wavefunction of any insulator is characterized by means of geometrical concepts (Berry phase, connection, curvature, Chern number, quantum metric). Among them, it is the quantum metric which sharply characterizes the insulating state of matter. The theory deals on a common ground with several kinds of insulators: band insulators, Mott insulators, Anderson insulators, quantum Hall insulators, Chern and topological insulators.

Copyright information

© EDP Sciences, SIF, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università di TriesteTriesteItaly
  2. 2.EMOCRITOS National Simulation CenterDIstituto Officina dei Materiali (CNR)TriesteItaly

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