Berry connection and curvature

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In physics, Berry connection and Berry curvature are related concepts which can be viewed, respectively, as a local gauge potential and gauge field associated with the Berry phase. These concepts were introduced by Michael Berry in a paper published in 1984[1] emphasizing how geometric phases provide a powerful unifying concept in several branches of classical and quantum physics. Such phases have come to be known as Berry phases.

Berry phase and cyclic adiabatic evolution[edit]

In quantum mechanics, the Berry phase arises in a cyclic adiabatic evolution. The quantum adiabatic theorem applies to a system whose Hamiltonian depends on a (vector) parameter that varies with time . If the 'th eigenvalue remains non-degenerate everywhere along the path and the variation with time t is sufficiently slow, then a system initially in the eigenstate will remain in an instantaneous eigenstate of the Hamiltonian , up to a phase, throughout the process. Regarding the phase, the state at time t can be written as[2]

where the second exponential term is the "dynamic phase factor." The first exponential term is the geometric term, with being the Berry phase. By plugging into the time-dependent Schrödinger equation, it can be shown that

indicating that the Berry phase only depends on the path in the parameter space, not on the rate at which the path is traversed.

In the case of a cyclic evolution around a closed path such that , the closed-path Berry phase is

An example of physical system where an electron moves along a closed path is cyclotron motion (details are given in the page of Berry phase). Berry phase must be considered to obtain the correct quantization condition.

Gauge transformation[edit]

Without changing the physics, we can make a gauge transformation

to a new set of states that differ from the original ones only by an -dependent phase factor. This modifies the open-path Berry phase to be . For a closed path, continuity requires that ( an integer), and it follows that is invariant, modulo , under an arbitrary gauge transformation.

Berry connection[edit]

The closed-path Berry phase defined above can be expressed as


is a vector-valued function known as the Berry connection (or Berry potential). The Berry connection is gauge-dependent, transforming as . Hence the local Berry connection can never be physically observable. However, its integral along a closed path, the Berry phase , is gauge-invariant up to an integer multiple of . Thus, is absolutely gauge-invariant, and may be related to physical observables.

Berry curvature[edit]

The Berry curvature is an anti-symmetric second-rank tensor derived from the Berry connection via

In a three-dimensional parameter space the Berry curvature can be written in the pseudovector form

The tensor and pseudovector forms of the Berry curvature are related to each other through the Levi-Civita antisymmetric tensor as . In contrast to the Berry connection, which is physical only after integrating around a closed path, the Berry curvature is a gauge-invariant local manifestation of the geometric properties of the wavefunctions in the parameter space, and has proven to be an essential physical ingredient for understanding a variety of electronic properties.[3][4]

For a closed path that forms the boundary of a surface , the closed-path Berry phase can be rewritten using Stokes' theorem as

If the surface is a closed manifold, the boundary term vanishes, but the indeterminacy of the boundary term modulo manifests itself in the Chern theorem, which states that the integral of the Berry curvature over a closed manifold is quantized in units of . This number is the so-called Chern number, and is essential for understanding various quantization effects.

Finally, note that the Berry curvature can also be written, using perturbation theory, as a sum over all other eigenstates in the form

Example: Spinor in a magnetic field[edit]

The Hamiltonian of a spin-1/2 particle in a magnetic field can be written as[2]

where denote the Pauli matrices, is the magnetic moment, and B is the magnetic field. In three dimensions, the eigenstates have energies and their eigenvectors are

Now consider the state. Its Berry connection can be computed as , and the Berry curvature is If we choose a new gauge by multiplying by , the Berry connections are and , while the Berry curvature remains the same. This is consistent with the conclusion that the Berry connection is gauge-dependent while the Berry curvature is not.

The Berry curvature per solid angle is given by . In this case, the Berry phase corresponding to any given path on the unit sphere in magnetic-field space is just half the solid angle subtended by the path. The integral of the Berry curvature over the whole sphere is therefore exactly , so that the Chern number is unity, consistent with the Chern theorem.

Applications in crystals[edit]

The Berry phase plays an important role in modern investigations of electronic properties in crystalline solids[4] and in the theory of the quantum Hall effect.[5] The periodicity of the crystalline potential allows the application of the Bloch theorem, which states that the Hamiltonian eigenstates take the form

where is a band index, is a wavevector in the reciprocal-space (Brillouin zone), and is a periodic function of . Then, letting play the role of the parameter , one can define Berry phases, connections, and curvatures in the reciprocal space. For example, the Berry connection in reciprocal space is

Because the Bloch theorem also implies that the reciprocal space itself is closed, with the Brillouin zone having the topology of a 3-torus in three dimensions, the requirements of integrating over a closed loop or manifold can easily be satisfied. In this way, such properties as the electric polarization, orbital magnetization, anomalous Hall conductivity, and orbital magnetoelectric coupling can be expressed in terms of Berry phases, connections, and curvatures.[4][6][7]


  1. ^ Berry, M. V. (1984). "Quantal Phase Factors Accompanying Adiabatic Changes". Proceedings of the Royal Society A. 392 (1802): 45–57. Bibcode:1984RSPSA.392...45B. doi:10.1098/rspa.1984.0023. 
  2. ^ a b Sakurai, J.J. (2005). Modern Quantum Mechanics. Revised Edition. Addison–Wesley. 
  3. ^ Resta, Raffaele (2000). "Manifestations of Berry's phase in molecules and in condensed matter". J. Phys.: Condens. Matter. 12: R107. Bibcode:2000JPCM...12R.107R. doi:10.1088/0953-8984/12/9/201. 
  4. ^ a b c Xiao, Di; Chang, Ming-Che; Niu, Qian (Jul 2010). "Berry phase effects on electronic properties". Rev. Mod. Phys. American Physical Society. 82 (3): 1959–2007. arXiv:0907.2021Freely accessible. Bibcode:2010RvMP...82.1959X. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.82.1959. 
  5. ^ Thouless, D. J.; Kohmoto, M.; Nightingale, M. P.; den Nijs, M. (Aug 1982). "Quantized Hall Conductance in a Two-Dimensional Periodic Potential". Phys. Rev. Lett. American Physical Society. 49 (6): 405–408. Bibcode:1982PhRvL..49..405T. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.49.405. 
  6. ^ Chang, Ming-Che; Niu, Qian (2008). "Berry curvature, orbital moment, and effective quantum theory of electrons in electromagnetic fields". Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. 20 (19): 193202. Bibcode:2008JPCM...20s3202C. doi:10.1088/0953-8984/20/19/193202. 
  7. ^ Resta, Raffaele (2010). "Electrical polarization and orbital magnetization: the modern theories". J. Phys.: Condens. Matter. 22: 123201. Bibcode:2010JPCM...22l3201R. doi:10.1088/0953-8984/22/12/123201. 

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