Experimentelle Physik IV

    Felix Reis (PhD thesis): Realization and Spectroscopy of the Quantum Spin Hall Insulator Bismuthene on Silicon Carbide


    Topological matter is one of the most vibrant research fields of contemporary solid state physics since the theoretical prediction of the quantum spin Hall effect in graphene in 2005. Quantum spin Hall insulators possess a vanishing bulk conductivity but symmetryprotected, helical edge states that give rise to dissipationless charge transport. The experimental verification of this exotic state of matter in 2007 lead to a boost of research activity in this field, inspired by possible ground-breaking future applications. However, the use of the quantum spin Hall materials available to date is limited to cryogenic temperatures owing to their comparably small bulk band gaps. In this thesis, we follow a novel approach to realize a quantum spin Hall material with a large energy gap and epitaxially grow bismuthene, i.e., Bi atoms adopting a honeycomb lattice, in a (√3 × √3) reconstruction on the semiconductor SiC(0001). In this way, we profit both from the honeycomb symmetry as well as the large spin-orbit coupling of Bi, which, in combination, give rise to a topologically non-trivial band gap on the order of one electronvolt. An in-depth theoretical analysis demonstrates that the covalent bond between the Si and Bi atoms is not only stabilizing the Bi film but is pivotal to attain the quantum spin Hall phase. The preparation of high-quality, unreconstructed SiC(0001) substrates sets the basis for the formation of bismuthene and requires an extensive procedure in ultra-pure dry H2 gas. Scanning tunneling microscopy measurements unveil the (1 × 1) surface periodicity and smooth terrace planes, which are suitable for the growth of single Bi layers by means of molecular beam epitaxy. The chemical configuration of the resulting Bi film and its oxidation upon exposure to ambient atmosphere are inspected with X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy reveals the excellent agreement of probed and calculated band structure. In particular, it evidences a characteristic Rashba-splitting of the valence bands at the K point. Scanning tunneling spectroscopy probes signatures of this splitting, as well, and allows to determine the full band gap with a magnitude of Egap ≈ 0.8 eV. Constant-current images and local-density-of-state maps confirm the presence of a planar honeycomb lattice, which forms several domains due to different, yet equivalent, nucleation sites of the (√3 × √3)-Bi reconstruction. Differential conductivity measurements demonstrate that bismuthene edge states evolve at atomic steps of the SiC substrate. The probed, metallic local density of states is in agreement with the density of states expected from the edge state’s energy dispersion found in density functional theory calculations – besides a pronounced dip at the Fermi level. By means of temperature- and energy-dependent tunneling spectroscopy it is shown that the spectral properties of this suppressed density of states are successfully captured in the framework of the Tomonaga-Luttinger liquid theory and most likely originate from enhanced electronic correlations in the edge channel.