Bismuthene on a SiC substrate: A candidate for a high-temperature quantum spin Hall material

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Science  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6348, pp. 287-290
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai8142

Making a large-gap topological insulator

Although of interest to basic research, topological insulators (TIs) have not yet lived up to their technological potential. This is partly because their protected surface-edge state usually lives within a narrow energy gap, with its exotic transport properties overwhelmed by the ordinary bulk material. Reis et al. show that a judicious choice of materials can make the gap wide enough for the topological properties to be apparent at room temperature. Numerical calculations indicate that a monolayer of Bismuth grown on SiC(0001) is a two-dimensional TI with a large energy gap. The researchers fabricated such a heterostructure and characterized it using scanning tunneling spectroscopy. The size of the experimentally measured gap was consistent with the calculations.

Science, this issue p. 287


Quantum spin Hall materials hold the promise of revolutionary devices with dissipationless spin currents but have required cryogenic temperatures owing to small energy gaps. Here we show theoretically that a room-temperature regime with a large energy gap may be achievable within a paradigm that exploits the atomic spin-orbit coupling. The concept is based on a substrate-supported monolayer of a high–atomic number element and is experimentally realized as a bismuth honeycomb lattice on top of the insulating silicon carbide substrate SiC(0001). Using scanning tunneling spectroscopy, we detect a gap of ~0.8 electron volt and conductive edge states consistent with theory. Our combined theoretical and experimental results demonstrate a concept for a quantum spin Hall wide-gap scenario, where the chemical potential resides in the global system gap, ensuring robust edge conductance.

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