Phase singularities appear ubiquitously in wavefields, regardless of the wave equation. Such topological defects can lead to wavefront dislocations, as observed in a humongous number of classical wave experiments. Phase singularities of wave functions are also at the heart of the topological classification of the gapped phases of matter. Despite identical singular features, topological insulators and topological defects in waves remain two distinct fields. Realising 1D microwave insulators, we experimentally observe a wavefront dislocation – a 2D phase singularity – in the local density of states when the systems undergo a topological phase transition. We show theoretically that the change in the number of interference fringes at the transition reveals the topological index that characterises the band topology in the insulator.
Topological properties are defined from singularities of the wave functions delocalised in the bulk of the material, but most experimental manifestations remain indirect. Here, the authors observe a wavefront dislocation as a direct evidence of the phase singularity of the delocalised wave functions in 1D microwave photonic insulators.