Observation of Floquet-Bloch States on the Surface of a Topological Insulator

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Science  25 Oct 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6157, pp. 453-457
DOI: 10.1126/science.1239834

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Topological Replicas

When a periodic perturbation couples strongly to electrons in a solid, replicas of the original electronic levels are predicted to develop at certain energies—the so-called Floquet-Bloch states. Such conditions can be achieved by shining light on a solid, but the effect is challenging to observe. Wang et al. (p. 453) used time- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to photoexcite Bi2Se3 and observe its dispersion at various delay times. The replicas were seen at expected energy shifts, along with the gaps predicted to occur at the new energy-level crossings caused by the appearance of the replicas. Because Bi2Se3 is a topological insulator, the breaking of the time-reversal symmetry caused by circularly polarized light resulted in the appearance of an energy gap at the Dirac point, indicating an interesting route toward manipulating electronic states in such materials.


The unique electronic properties of the surface electrons in a topological insulator are protected by time-reversal symmetry. Circularly polarized light naturally breaks time-reversal symmetry, which may lead to an exotic surface quantum Hall state. Using time- and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, we show that an intense ultrashort midinfrared pulse with energy below the bulk band gap hybridizes with the surface Dirac fermions of a topological insulator to form Floquet-Bloch bands. These photon-dressed surface bands exhibit polarization-dependent band gaps at avoided crossings. Circularly polarized photons induce an additional gap at the Dirac point, which is a signature of broken time-reversal symmetry on the surface. These observations establish the Floquet-Bloch bands in solids and pave the way for optical manipulation of topological quantum states of matter.

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