Gauge fields play a major role in understanding quantum effects. For example, gauge flux insertion into single unit cells is crucial towards detecting quantum phases and controlling quantum dynamics and classical waves. However, the potential of gauge fields in topological materials studies has not been fully exploited. Here, we experimentally demonstrate artificial gauge flux insertion into a single plaquette of a sonic crystal with a gauge phase ranging from 0 to 2π. We insert the gauge flux through a three-step process of dimensional extension, engineering a screw dislocation and dimensional reduction. Additionally, the single-plaquette gauge flux leads to cyclic spectral flows across multiple bandgaps that manifest as topological boundary states on the plaquette and emerge only when the flux-carrying plaquette encloses the Wannier centres. We termed this phenomenon as the topological Wannier cycle. This work paves the way towards sub-unit-cell gauge flux, enabling future studies on synthetic gauge fields and topological materials.

Topological Wannier cycles induced by sub-unit-cell artificial gauge flux in a sonic crystal | Nature Materials