Realizing strongly-correlated topological phases of ultracold gases is a central goal for ongoing experiments. And while fractional quantum Hall states could soon be implemented in small atomic ensembles, detecting their signatures in few-particle settings remains a fundamental challenge. Using time-dependent DMRG, we numerically analyze the center-of-mass Hall drift of a small ensemble of hardcore bosons, initially prepared in the ground state of the Harper-Hofstadter-Hubbard model in a box potential.
By monitoring the Hall drift upon release, for a wide range of magnetic flux values, we identify an emergent Hall plateau compatible with a fractional Chern insulator state: the extracted Hall conductivity approaches a fractional value determined by the many-body Chern number, while the width of the plateau agrees with the spectral and topological properties of the prepared ground state. Besides, a direct application of Streda's formula indicates that such Hall plateaus can also be directly obtained from static density-profile measurements. Our calculations suggest that fractional Chern insulators can be detected in cold-atom experiments, using available detection methods.
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