Evidence for the chiral anomaly in the Dirac semimetal Na3Bi

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Science  23 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6259, pp. 413-416
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac6089

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Breaking chiral symmetry in a solid

Dirac semimetals have graphene-like electronic structure, albeit in three rather than two dimensions. In a magnetic field, their Dirac cones split into two halves, one supporting left-handed and the other right-handed fermions. If an electric field is applied parallel to the magnetic field, this “chiral” symmetry may break: a phenomenon called the chiral anomaly. Xiong et al. observed this anomaly in the Dirac semimetal Na3Bi (see the Perspective by Burkov). Transport measurements lead to the detection of the predicted large negative magnetoresistance, which appeared only when the two fields were nearly parallel to each other.

Science, this issue p. 413, see also p. 378


In a Dirac semimetal, each Dirac node is resolved into two Weyl nodes with opposite “handedness” or chirality. The two chiral populations do not mix. However, in parallel electric and magnetic fields (E||B), charge is predicted to flow between the Weyl nodes, leading to negative magnetoresistance. This “axial” current is the chiral (Adler-Bell-Jackiw) anomaly investigated in quantum field theory. We report the observation of a large, negative longitudinal magnetoresistance in the Dirac semimetal Na3Bi. The negative magnetoresistance is acutely sensitive to deviations of the direction of B from E and is incompatible with conventional transport. By rotating E (as well as B), we show that it is consistent with the prediction of the chiral anomaly.

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