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Topological Insulators

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      Abstract

      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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      The rise of graphene

      Graphene is a rapidly rising star on the horizon of materials science and condensed matter physics. This strictly two-dimensional material exhibits exceptionally high crystal and electronic quality and, despite its short history, has already revealed a cornucopia of new physics and potential applications, which are briefly discussed here. Whereas one can be certain of the realness of applications only when commercial products appear, graphene no longer requires any further proof of its importance in terms of fundamental physics. Owing to its unusual electronic spectrum, graphene has led to the emergence of a new paradigm of 'relativistic' condensed matter physics, where quantum relativistic phenomena, some of which are unobservable in high energy physics, can now be mimicked and tested in table-top experiments. More generally, graphene represents a conceptually new class of materials that are only one atom thick and, on this basis, offers new inroads into low-dimensional physics that has never ceased to surprise and continues to provide a fertile ground for applications.
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        Two-Dimensional Gas of Massless Dirac Fermions in Graphene

        Electronic properties of materials are commonly described by quasiparticles that behave as non-relativistic electrons with a finite mass and obey the Schroedinger equation. Here we report a condensed matter system where electron transport is essentially governed by the Dirac equation and charge carriers mimic relativistic particles with zero mass and an effective "speed of light" c* ~10^6m/s. Our studies of graphene - a single atomic layer of carbon - have revealed a variety of unusual phenomena characteristic of two-dimensional (2D) Dirac fermions. In particular, we have observed that a) the integer quantum Hall effect in graphene is anomalous in that it occurs at half-integer filling factors; b) graphene's conductivity never falls below a minimum value corresponding to the conductance quantum e^2/h, even when carrier concentrations tend to zero; c) the cyclotron mass m of massless carriers with energy E in graphene is described by equation E =mc*^2; and d) Shubnikov-de Haas oscillations in graphene exhibit a phase shift of pi due to Berry's phase.
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          The electronic properties of graphene

          This article reviews the basic theoretical aspects of graphene, a one atom thick allotrope of carbon, with unusual two-dimensional Dirac-like electronic excitations. The Dirac electrons can be controlled by application of external electric and magnetic fields, or by altering sample geometry and/or topology. We show that the Dirac electrons behave in unusual ways in tunneling, confinement, and integer quantum Hall effect. We discuss the electronic properties of graphene stacks and show that they vary with stacking order and number of layers. Edge (surface) states in graphene are strongly dependent on the edge termination (zigzag or armchair) and affect the physical properties of nanoribbons. We also discuss how different types of disorder modify the Dirac equation leading to unusual spectroscopic and transport properties. The effects of electron-electron and electron-phonon interactions in single layer and multilayer graphene are also presented.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            2010-02-20
            2010-11-09
            1002.3895 10.1103/RevModPhys.82.3045

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

            Custom metadata
            Rev.Mod.Phys.82:3045,2010
            23 pages, 20 figures, Published version
            cond-mat.mes-hall

            Nanophysics

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