The Coexistence of Superconductivity and Topological Order in the Bi2Se3 Thin Films

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Science  06 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6077, pp. 52-55
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216466

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Three-dimensional topological insulators (TIs) are characterized by their nontrivial surface states, in which electrons have their spin locked at a right angle to their momentum under the protection of time-reversal symmetry. The topologically ordered phase in TIs does not break any symmetry. The interplay between topological order and symmetry breaking, such as that observed in superconductivity, can lead to new quantum phenomena and devices. We fabricated a superconducting TI/superconductor heterostructure by growing dibismuth triselenide (Bi2Se3) thin films on superconductor niobium diselenide substrate. Using scanning tunneling microscopy and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, we observed the superconducting gap at the Bi2Se3 surface in the regime of Bi2Se3 film thickness where topological surface states form. This observation lays the groundwork for experimentally realizing Majorana fermions in condensed matter physics.

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