"Crossover of the three-dimensional topological insulator Bi2Se3 to the two-dimensional limit"

Yi Zhang: Ke He, Cui-Zu Chang, Can-Li Song, Li-Li Wang, Xi Chen, Jin-Feng Jia, Zhong Fang, Xi Dai, Wen-Yu Shan, Shun-Qing Shen, Qian Niu, Xiao-Liang Qi, Shou-Cheng Zhang, Xu-Cun Ma and Qi-Kun Xue; Nature Physics, 06/13/10.

Additional Authors: Ke He, Cui-Zu Chang, Can-Li Song, Li-Li Wang, Xi Chen, Jin-Feng Jia, Zhong Fang, Xi Dai, Wen-Yu Shan, Shun-Qing Shen, Qian Niu, Xiao-Liang Qi, Shou-Cheng Zhang, Xu-Cun Ma and Qi-Kun Xue

Abstract:

A topological insulator1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 is a new state of quantum matter that is characterized by a finite energy gap in the bulk and gapless modes flowing along the boundaries that are robust against disorder scattering. The topological protection of the surface state could be useful for both low-power electronics10 and error-tolerant quantum computing11, 12. For a thin slab of three-dimensional topological insulator, the boundary modes from the opposite surfaces may be coupled by quantum tunnelling, so that a small, thickness-dependent gap is opened up13, 14, 15. Here we report such results from angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy on Bi2Se3 films of various thicknesses grown by molecular beam epitaxy. The energy gap opening is clearly seen when the thickness is below six quintuple layers. The gapped surface states also exhibit sizeable Rashba-type spin–orbit splitting because of the substrate-induced potential difference between the two surfaces. The tunable gap and the spin–orbit coupling make these topological thin films ideal for electronic and spintronic device applications.