Probing embedded topological modes in bulk-like GeTe-Sb2Te3 heterostructures

Hisao Nakamura (Corresponding author), Johannes Hofmann (Corresponding author), Nobuki Inoue, Sebastian Koelling, Paul M. Koenraad, Gregor Mussler, Detlev Grützmacher, Vijay Narayan (Corresponding author)

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The interface between topological and normal insulators hosts metallic states that appear due to the change in band topology. While topological states at a surface, i.e., a topological insulator-air/vacuum interface, have been studied intensely, topological states at a solid-solid interface have been less explored. Here we combine experiment and theory to study such embedded topological states (ETSs) in heterostructures of GeTe (normal insulator) and Sb 2Te 3 (topological insulator). We analyse their dependence on the interface and their confinement characteristics. First, to characterise the heterostructures, we evaluate the GeTe-Sb2Te3 band offset using X-ray photoemission spectroscopy, and chart the elemental composition using atom probe tomography. We then use first-principles to independently calculate the band offset and also parametrise the band structure within a four-band continuum model. Our analysis reveals, strikingly, that under realistic conditions, the interfacial topological modes are delocalised over many lattice spacings. In addition, the first-principles calculations indicate that the ETSs are relatively robust to disorder and this may have practical ramifications. Our study provides insights into how to manipulate topological modes in heterostructures and also provides a basis for recent experimental findings [Nguyen et al. Sci. Rep. 6, 27716 (2016)] where ETSs were seen to couple over thick layers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21806
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2020


This work was supported by EPSRC, UK, CREST, JST (Grant No. JPMJCR14F1 and JPMJCR18I4) and Peterhouse, Cambridge. GM and DG acknowledge the Cluster of Excellence Matter and Light for Quantum Computing (ML4Q, EXC 2004/1 - 390534769), funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany’s Excellence Strategy.

FundersFunder number
PeterhouseEXC 2004/1 - 390534769
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Japan Science and Technology AgencyJPMJCR18I4, JPMJCR14F1
Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology


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