For the description of observables and states of a quantum system, it may be convenient to use a canonical Weyl algebra of which only a subalgebra A, with a non-trivial center Z, describes observables, the other Weyl operators playing the role of intertwiners between inequivalent representations of A. In particular, this gives rise to a gauge symmetry described by the action of Z. A distinguished case is when the center of the observables arises from the fundamental group of the manifold of the positions of the quantum system. Symmetries that do not commute with the topological invariants represented by elements of Z are then spontaneously broken in each irreducible representation of the observable algebra, compatibly with an energy gap; such a breaking exhibits a mechanism radically different from Goldstone and Higgs mechanisms. This is clearly displayed by the quantum particle on a circle, the Bloch electron and the two body problem.
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