Observation of topological surface state quantum Hall effect in an intrinsic three-dimensional topological insulator


A three-dimensional (3D) topological insulator (TI) is a quantum state of matter with a gapped insulating bulk yet a conducting surface hosting topologically protected gapless surface states. One of the most distinct electronic transport signatures predicted for such topological surface states (TSS) is a well-defined half-integer quantum Hall effect (QHE) in a magnetic field, where the surface Hall conductivities become quantized in units of (1/2)e2/h (e being the electron charge, h the Planck constant) concomitant with vanishing resistance. Here, we observe a well-developed QHE arising from TSS in an intrinsic TI of BiSbTeSe2. Our samples exhibit surface-dominated conduction even close to room temperature, whereas the bulk conduction is negligible. At low temperatures and high magnetic fields perpendicular to the top and bottom surfaces, we observe well-developed integer quantized Hall plateaux, where the two parallel surfaces each contribute a half-integer e2/h quantized Hall conductance, accompanied by vanishing longitudinal resistance. When the bottom surface is gated to match the top surface in carrier density, only odd integer QH plateaux are observed, representing a half-integer QHE of two degenerate Dirac gases. This system provides an excellent platform to pursue a plethora of exotic physics and novel device applications predicted for TIs, ranging from magnetic monopoles and Majorana particles to dissipationless electronics and fault-tolerant quantum computers.

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Figure 1: Surface versus bulk conduction in BSTS.
Figure 2: Electric field effect and gate-tuned quantum Hall effect (QHE) in BSTS.
Figure 3: Magnetic field tuned QHE.
Figure 4: QHE measured in a different sample and temperature dependence.


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We acknowledge support from DARPA MESO program (Grant N66001-11-1-4107). H.N. and C-K.S. acknowledge support from the Welch Foundation (Grant F-1672) and ARO (Grants W911NF-09-1-0527 and W911NF-12-1-0308). High magnetic field transport measurements were performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL), which is jointly supported by the National Science Foundation (DMR0654118) and the State of Florida. We thank E. Palm, T. Murphy, J. Jaroszynski, E. Sang, H. Cao, J. Coy and T. Wu for experimental assistance.

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Y.P.C. supervised the research. I.M. synthesized the crystals. Y.X. characterized the materials, fabricated the devices, performed the transport measurements, and analysed the data. J.T. performed EDX characterization. C.L., N.A. and M.Z.H. performed ARPES characterization. H.N. and C-K.S. performed STS characterization. J.H. assisted the transport measurements. Y.P.C. and Y.X. wrote the paper, with comments from other co-authors.

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Correspondence to Yong P. Chen.

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Xu, Y., Miotkowski, I., Liu, C. et al. Observation of topological surface state quantum Hall effect in an intrinsic three-dimensional topological insulator. Nature Phys 10, 956–963 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys3140

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