Detecting topological currents in graphene superlattices

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Science  24 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6208, pp. 448-451
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254966

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Making use of graphene's valleys

Graphene has two distinct valleys in its electronic structure, in which the electrons have the same energy. Theorists have predicted that creating an asymmetry between the two valleys will coax graphene into exhibiting the so-called valley Hall effect (VHE). In this effect, electrons from the two valleys move across the sample in opposite directions when the experimenters run current along the sample. Gorbachev et al. achieved this asymmetry by aligning graphene with an underlying layer of hexagonalboron nitride (hBN) (see the Perspective by Lundeberg and Folk). The authors measured the transport characteristics of the sample, which were consistent with the theoretical predictions for the VHE. The method may in the future lead to information processing using graphene's valleys.

Science, this issue p. 448; see also p. 422


Topological materials may exhibit Hall-like currents flowing transversely to the applied electric field even in the absence of a magnetic field. In graphene superlattices, which have broken inversion symmetry, topological currents originating from graphene’s two valleys are predicted to flow in opposite directions and combine to produce long-range charge neutral flow. We observed this effect as a nonlocal voltage at zero magnetic field in a narrow energy range near Dirac points at distances as large as several micrometers away from the nominal current path. Locally, topological currents are comparable in strength with the applied current, indicating large valley-Hall angles. The long-range character of topological currents and their transistor-like control by means of gate voltage can be exploited for information processing based on valley degrees of freedom.

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