The unique crystalline protection of the surface states in topological crystalline insulators1 has led to a series of predictions of strain-generated phenomena, from the appearance of pseudo-magnetic fields and helical flat bands2 to the tunability of Dirac surface states by strain that may be used to construct ‘straintronic’ nanoswitches3. However, the practical realization of this exotic phenomenology via strain engineering is experimentally challenging and is yet to be achieved. Here, we have designed an experiment to not only generate and measure strain locally, but also to directly measure the resulting effects on Dirac surface states. We grew heteroepitaxial thin films of topological crystalline insulator SnTe in situ and measured them using high-resolution scanning tunnelling microscopy to determine picoscale changes in the atomic positions, which reveal regions of both tensile and compressive strain. Simultaneous Fourier-transform scanning tunnelling spectroscopy was then used to determine the effects of strain on the Dirac electrons. We find that strain continuously tunes the momentum space position of the Dirac points, consistent with theoretical predictions2,3. Our work demonstrates the fundamental mechanism necessary for using topological crystalline insulators in strain-based applications.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
AAPPS Bulletin Open Access 19 July 2022
Communications Physics Open Access 14 May 2021
Nature Communications Open Access 04 January 2021
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 12 print issues and online access
$259.00 per year
only $21.58 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Fu, L. Topological crystalline insulators. Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 106802 (2011).
Tang, E. & Fu, L. Strain-induced partially flat band, helical snake states and interface superconductivity in topological crystalline insulators. Nature Phys. 10, 964–969 (2014).
Barone, P., Di Sante, D. & Picozzi, S. Strain engineering of topological properties in lead-salt semiconductors. Phys. Status Solidi 7, 1102–1106 (2013).
Engelmann, J. et al. Strain induced superconductivity in the parent compound BaFe2As2 . Nature Commun. 4, 2877 (2013).
Hicks, C. W. et al. Strong increase of Tc of Sr2RuO4 under both tensile and compressive strain. Science 344, 283–285 (2014).
Chu, J.-H. et al. In-plane resistivity anisotropy in an underdoped iron arsenide superconductor. Science 329, 824–826 (2010).
Liu, W. et al. Anisotropic interactions and strain-induced topological phase transition in Sb2Se3 and Bi2Se3 . Phys. Rev. B 84, 245105 (2011).
Liu, Y. et al. Tuning Dirac states by strain in the topological insulator Bi2Se3 . Nature Phys. 10, 294–299 (2014).
Liu, Y. et al. Charging Dirac states at antiphase domain boundaries in the three-dimensional topological insulator Bi2Se3 . Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 186804 (2013).
Ran, Y., Zhang, Y. & Vishwanath, A. One-dimensional topologically protected modes in topological insulators with lattice dislocations. Nature Phys. 5, 298–303 (2009).
Teo, J. C. Y. & Kane, C. L. Topological defects and gapless modes in insulators and superconductors. Phys. Rev. B 82, 115120 (2010).
Fu, L., Kane, C. & Mele, E. Topological insulators in three dimensions. Phys. Rev. Lett. 98, 106803 (2007).
Hasan, M. Z. & Kane, C. L. Colloquium: topological insulators. Rev. Mod. Phys. 82, 3045–3067 (2010).
Qi, X.-L. & Zhang, S.-C. Topological insulators and superconductors. Rev. Mod. Phys. 83, 1057–1110 (2011).
Tanaka, Y. et al. Tunability of the k-space location of the Dirac cones in the topological crystalline insulator Pb1−xSnxTe. Phys. Rev. B 87, 155105 (2013).
Barone, P. et al. Pressure-induced topological phase transitions in rocksalt chalcogenides. Phys. Rev. B 88, 045207 (2013).
Sun, Y. et al. Rocksalt SnS and SnSe: native topological crystalline insulators. Phys. Rev. B 88, 235122 (2013).
Levy, N. et al. Strain-induced pseudo-magnetic fields greater than 300 tesla in graphene nanobubbles. Science 329, 544–547 (2010).
Gomes, K. K., Mar, W., Ko, W., Guinea, F. & Manoharan, H. C. Designer Dirac fermions and topological phases in molecular graphene. Nature 483, 306–310 (2012).
Lu, J., Neto, A. H. C. & Loh, K. P. Transforming Moiré blisters into geometric graphene nano-bubbles. Nature Commun. 3, 823 (2012).
Springholz, G. & Wiesauer, K. Nanoscale dislocation patterning in PbTe/PbSe(001) lattice-mismatched heteroepitaxy. Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 015507 (2001).
Knox, K. R., Bozin, E. S., Malliakas, C. D., Kanatzidis, M. G. & Billinge, S. J. L. Local off-centering symmetry breaking in the high-temperature regime of SnTe. Phys. Rev. B 89, 014102 (2014).
Zhang, D. et al. Quasiparticle scattering from topological crystalline insulator SnTe (001) surface states. Phys. Rev. B 89, 245445 (2014).
Assaf, B. A. et al. Quantum coherent transport in SnTe topological crystalline insulator thin films. Appl. Phys. Lett. 105, 102108 (2014).
Hoffman, J. E. et al. Imaging quasiparticle interference in Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+δ . Science 297, 1148–1151 (2002).
Tanaka, Y. et al. Experimental realization of a topological crystalline insulator in SnTe. Nature Phys. 8, 800–803 (2012).
Xu, S.-Y. et al. Observation of a topological crystalline insulator phase and topological phase transition in Pb1−xSnxTe. Nature Commun. 3, 1192 (2012).
Hsieh, T. H. et al. Topological crystalline insulators in the SnTe material class. Nature Commun. 3, 982 (2012).
Liu, J., Duan, W. & Fu, L. Two types of surface states in topological crystalline insulators. Phys. Rev. B 88, 241303 (2013).
Zeljkovic, I. et al. Mapping the unconventional orbital texture in topological crystalline insulators. Nature Phys. 10, 572–577 (2014).
Lawler, M. J. et al. Intra-unit-cell electronic nematicity of the high-Tc copper-oxide pseudogap states. Nature 466, 347–351 (2010).
Okada, Y. et al. Ripple-modulated electronic structure of a 3D topological insulator. Nature Commun. 3, 1158 (2012).
V.M. acknowledges funding from the US Department of Energy, Scanned Probe Division (award no. DE-FG02-12ER46880), to support I.Z., K.L.S., B.A.A. and D.W. for this project. F.C. acknowledges support provided by MOST-Taiwan (project no. NSC-102-2119-M-002-004).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Zeljkovic, I., Walkup, D., Assaf, B. et al. Strain engineering Dirac surface states in heteroepitaxial topological crystalline insulator thin films. Nature Nanotech 10, 849–853 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2015.177
This article is cited by
AAPPS Bulletin (2022)
Nature Physics (2021)
Nature Communications (2021)
Communications Physics (2021)
Normal-to-topological insulator martensitic phase transition in group-IV monochalcogenides driven by light
NPG Asia Materials (2020)