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Quantum Spin Hall Effect and Topological Phase Transition in HgTe Quantum Wells

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Science  15 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5806, pp. 1757-1761
DOI: 10.1126/science.1133734

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Abstract

We show that the quantum spin Hall (QSH) effect, a state of matter with topological properties distinct from those of conventional insulators, can be realized in mercury telluride–cadmium telluride semiconductor quantum wells. When the thickness of the quantum well is varied, the electronic state changes from a normal to an “inverted” type at a critical thickness dc. We show that this transition is a topological quantum phase transition between a conventional insulating phase and a phase exhibiting the QSH effect with a single pair of helical edge states. We also discuss methods for experimental detection of the QSH effect.

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