Quantum spin Hall effect in two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides

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Science  12 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6215, pp. 1344-1347
DOI: 10.1126/science.1256815

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Quantum spin Hall (QSH) effect materials feature edge states that are topologically protected from backscattering. However, the small band gap in materials that have been identified as QSH insulators limits applications. We use first-principles calculations to predict a class of large-gap QSH insulators in two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides with 1T′ structure, namely, 1T′-MX2 with M = (tungsten or molybdenum) and X = (tellurium, selenium, or sulfur). A structural distortion causes an intrinsic band inversion between chalcogenide-p and metal-d bands. Additionally, spin-orbit coupling opens a gap that is tunable by vertical electric field and strain. We propose a topological field effect transistor made of van der Waals heterostructures of 1T′-MX2 and two-dimensional dielectric layers that can be rapidly switched off by electric field through a topological phase transition instead of carrier depletion.

Predicting an exotic state of matter

Much like graphene, twodimensional flakes of transition metal dichalcogenides have appealing electronic properties. Qian et al. now find that certain structures of these materials may also exhibit the so-called spin Hall effect. The spin Hall effect represents an exotic state of matter in which a 2D material conducts electricity along its edge in a way that drastically reduces dissipation. To show this, the researchers used first-principle calculations and found that the materials also feature a large band gap, which reduces undesirable conduction through the bulk. Their proposed device could be switched on and off quickly using an electric field.

Science, this issue p. 1344

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