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Sci Rep. 2013;3:1233. doi: 10.1038/srep01233. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

Tuning the vertical location of helical surface states in topological insulator heterostructures via dual-proximity effects.

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  • 1ICQD, Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at the Microscale, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230026, China.


In integrating topological insulators (TIs) with conventional materials, one crucial issue is how the topological surface states (TSS) will behave in such heterostructures. We use first-principles approaches to establish accurate tunability of the vertical location of the TSS via intriguing dual-proximity effects. By depositing a conventional insulator (CI) overlayer onto a TI substrate (Bi₂Se or Bi₂Te₃), we demonstrate that, the TSS can float to the top of the CI film, or stay put at the CI/TI interface, or be pushed down deeper into the otherwise structurally homogeneous TI substrate. These contrasting behaviors imply a rich variety of possible quantum phase transitions in the hybrid systems, dictated by key material-specific properties of the CI. These discoveries lay the foundation for accurate manipulation of the real space properties of TSS in TI heterostructures of diverse technological significance.

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