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Investigation of the Physical Properties of Dirac Materials


Chen, Chien-Chang (2021) Investigation of the Physical Properties of Dirac Materials. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/bgw9-d234.


This thesis focuses on the investigation of two types of Dirac materials: topological insulators (TI) and graphene. Both materials have received much attention and stimulated intense research activities over the last decade. Although massless Dirac electron are wonderful, there will be more industrial applications if we can open the gap and make Dirac electrons massive. For topological insulators, we focus on studies of the TI/Magnetic TI (MTI) bilayer structures to induce a gap on the surface state. For graphene, the author focuses on the Moiré pattern and interlayer interaction.

For bilayer TI/MTI samples, they were investigated with scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy (STM/STS), and with electrical transport measurements by means of a Physical Property Measurement System (PPMS). Details of the experimental setups for this research and their upgrades were described. For the current STM system, both the tube scanner and sample stage in the STM head had been redesigned and rebuilt, which led to better XYZ fine approach control, improved wire protection, and enhanced noise shielding. A new back gate capability was added to the sample stage. A customized commercial STM system has been commissioned, which is expected to provide a better sample holder with improved vacuum seals and easier temperature control, as well as more convenient approaches to loading samples and switching STM or AFM (atomic force microscope) tips. For PPMS, an optical probe had been designed and constructed, which enabled light-induced effects on the electrical transport properties of TIs. A new custom-made glove box has been installed, which provides a computer-controlled and self-circling gas environment to minimize the concentration of air while reduces the waste of argon. The glove box is also easy to use. This upgrade helps expand our abilities to conduct research more efficiently.

STM/STS studies of both the binary and ternary types of magnetic topological insulators (MTIs) are presented. For both binary and ternary bilayer TI/MTI systems, the majority of the density of states (DOS) spectra evolved with the temperature. At room temperature, all samples showed massless Dirac spectra. However, for temperatures below 200 K, all bilayer samples with the top pure TI layer thinner than 5QL revealed opening of a surface gap. Generally, binary TI/MTI samples exhibited smaller gapped domains, which was consistent with the finding of nearly negligible hysteretic behavior for Hall resistance vs, magnetic field sweeps at low temperatures. In contrast, ternary TI/MTI samples exhibited larger gapped domains, which implied longer range ferromagnetic order and was indeed corroborated by the apparent hysteretic behavior in the electrical transport measurements at low temperatures. Additionally, the application of c-axis magnetic fields led to slighter larger surface gaps and more uniform gap distributions, which further confirmed the physical origin of the surface gap as magnetic in nature. Besides the U or V-shaped DOS spectra, double-peak or single peak impurity resonances were also observed. These spatially localized minority spectra were found to mostly appear along the boundaries of gapped and gapless domains. Moreover, the number of impurities was founded to reach a maximum around 240 K, which corresponded to the onset temperature of localized surface gaps.

Detailed studies of the electrical transport properties of both the binary and ternary MTIs by the PPMS provided a comparison between the macroscopic information thus obtained with the microscopic information derived from STS studies. Binary TI/MTI showed an anonymous Hall effect (AHE) at 25 K while ternary TI/MTI showed AHE around 20 K. Binary TI/MTI systems exhibited weak localization (WL) behavior in the longitudinal resistance vs. magnetic field data at 2 K. The binary TI/MTI samples with a thinner top pure TI layer revealed sharper and stronger WL behavior. In contrast, for the 3QL-TI/6QL-MTI ternary sample, weak antilocalization (WAL) behavior was present for all temperatures, while WL also showed up below 13 K. The Hall resistance vs. magnetic field data for all samples of ternary TI/MTI bilayers and ternary MTI monolayer samples revealed strong hysteresis at low temperatures, in contrast to the negligible hysteretic behavior in all binary TI/MTI samples. Finally, circularly polarized light was found to enhance the AHE of the bilayer ternary TI/MTI sample while weakening that of the monolayer ternary MTI. These experimental phenomena may be mostly attributed to the different band structures and Fermi levels among the binary and ternary TI/MTI samples. In particular, we note that the observation of quantum anomalous Hall effect (QAHE) only in ternary MTI monolayers at extremely low temperatures (at T ≤ 30 mK < < Tcbulk ~ 30 K) may be attributed to the finite contributions of bulk carriers to excess conduction unless T → 0.

Simulations have been carried out to account for the Moiré patterns of graphene on Cu (111), graphene on Cu (100), twisted bilayer graphene, and Cr-doped topological insulators. The physical origin for empirically observed structural superlubricity between graphene layers has also been modeled by simulations based on the density functional theory (DFT).

Finally, the key findings of this thesis work and the suggested future research directions are summarized.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Topological Insulator, graphene, Dirac, Moire pattern, superlubricity, magic angle
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Yeh, Nai-Chang
Thesis Committee:
  • Eisenstein, James P. (chair)
  • Chen, Xie
  • Hsieh, David
  • Yeh, Nai-Chang
Defense Date:3 July 2020
Non-Caltech Author Email:kyle5241 (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Army Research Office (ARO)W911NF-16-1-0472
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:07092020-003626793
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Massive Dirac Spectra and Topological Defects in the Surface State of Cr-Doped Bi2Se3-Bilayer Topological Insulators (Ch. 3) growth of mm-size twisted bilayer graphene by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (Ch. 5) strain engineering of graphene and graphene-based devices,” Acta Mechanica Sinica (Ch. 5) deposition of high mobility graphene at reduced temperatures (Ch. 5)
Chen, Chien-Chang0000-0003-0959-5584
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:13839
Deposited By: Chien Chang Chen
Deposited On:14 Jul 2020 19:29
Last Modified:28 Feb 2023 19:13

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