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Preprint

2010-02-20

Topological insulators are electronic materials that have a bulk band gap like an
ordinary insulator, but have protected conducting states on their edge or surface.
The 2D topological insulator is a quantum spin Hall insulator, which is a close cousin
of the integer quantum Hall state. A 3D topological insulator supports novel spin
polarized 2D Dirac fermions on its surface. In this Colloquium article we will review
the theoretical foundation for these electronic states and describe recent experiments
in which their signatures have been observed. We will describe transport experiments
on HgCdTe quantum wells that demonstrate the existence of the edge states predicted
for the quantum spin Hall insulator. We will then discuss experiments on Bi_{1-x}Sb_x,
Bi_2 Se_3, Bi_2 Te_3 and Sb_2 Te_3 that establish these materials as 3D topological
insulators and directly probe the topology of their surface states. We will then describe
exotic states that can occur at the surface of a 3D topological insulator due to an
induced energy gap. A magnetic gap leads to a novel quantum Hall state that gives
rise to a topological magnetoelectric effect. A superconducting energy gap leads to
a state that supports Majorana fermions, and may provide a new venue for realizing
proposals for topological quantum computation. We will close by discussing prospects
for observing these exotic states, a well as other potential device applications of
topological insulators.

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A Firsov, I. Grigorieva, S Dubonos … (2005)

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K. S. Novoselov, A. K. Geim, A. H. Castro Neto … (2007)

http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/