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Symmetry breaking in twisted double bilayer graphene


The flat bands that appear in some twisted van der Waals heterostructures provide a setting in which strong interactions between electrons lead to a variety of correlated phases1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20. In particular, heterostructures of twisted double bilayer graphene host correlated insulating states that can be tuned by both the twist angle and an external electric field11,12,13,14. Here, we report electrical transport measurements of twisted double bilayer graphene with which we examine the fundamental role of spontaneous symmetry breaking in its phase diagram. The metallic states near each of the correlated insulators exhibit abrupt drops in their resistivity as the temperature is lowered, along with associated nonlinear current–voltage characteristics. Despite qualitative similarities to superconductivity, the simultaneous reversals in the sign of the Hall coefficient point instead to spontaneous symmetry breaking as the origin of the abrupt resistivity drops, whereas Joule heating seems to underlie the nonlinear transport. Our results suggest that similar mechanisms are probably relevant across a broader class of semiconducting flat band van der Waals heterostructures.

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Fig. 1: Tunable band structure and transport in a 1.30 tDBG device.
Fig. 2: Temperature-dependent transport and Joule heating in tDBG.
Fig. 3: Evidence for spontaneous symmetry breaking inside the halo region.

Data availability

Source data are available for this paper. All other data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.


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We thank C. Dean, A. Young, J.-H. Chu, D. Cobden, S. Chen, X. Liu, P. Kim, B. Lian, A. MacDonald, L. Levitov and L. Fu for helpful discussions. Technical support for the dilution refrigerator was provided by A. Manna and Z. Fei. This work was primarily supported by NSF MRSEC grant no. 1719797. M.Y. acknowledges partial support from the Army Research Office under grant no. W911NF-20-1-0211. The theoretical calculation was partially supported by DOE BES grant no. DE-SC0018171. X.X. acknowledges support from the Boeing Distinguished Professorship in Physics. X.X. and M.Y. acknowledge support from the State of Washington funded Clean Energy Institute. This work made use of a dilution refrigerator system that was provided by NSF grant no. DMR-1725221. Y. Li acknowledges the support of the China Scholarship Council. K.W. and T.T. were supported by the Elemental Strategy Initiative conducted by the MEXT, Japan, and the CREST (JPMJCR15F3), JST.

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Authors and Affiliations



M.Y., X.X. and M.H. conceived the experiment. M.H. and Y. Li fabricated the devices, assisted by Y. Liu. M.H. performed the measurements, with assistance from Y. Li and Y. Liu. J.C. performed band structure calculation. K.W. and T.T. provided the bulk BN crystals. M.H., X.X. and M.Y. analysed the data and wrote the paper with input from all authors.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Xiaodong Xu or Matthew Yankowitz.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Optical microscope images of the five tDBG devices.

The twist angle of each device is denoted at the top left corner of each image. All scale bars are 10 μm.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Transport in tDBG at a variety of twist angles.

a-e, ρ as a function of n and D in all five devices acquired at B = 0 T. All are acquired at T = 2 K, except for c which is acquired at T = 20 mK. f-j, Corresponding RH for the same devices. The maps in f, h and i are antisymmetrized at B = 0.5 T, the map in g is antisymmetrized at B = 0.1 T, and the map in j is acquired at B = + 0.5 T but not antisymmetrized. k-o, Schematics of the phase diagram for each device. Blue corresponds to four-fold degeneracy, green corresponds to two-fold degeneracy, and orange indicates no remaining degeneracy. The dark gray lines denote CI states. The light gray coloring corresponds to experimentally inaccessible regions of the phase diagram.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Incipient CI states at v = 1 and 3 in device D3.

a, ρ map surrounding the CI states in device D3 at T = 20 mK. b, ρ(T) acquired where the v = 1 CI state is most resistive. A weak metal-insulator transition is observed at T ≈ 150 mK. c, ρ(T) of the v = 3 CI state, exhibiting a metal-insulator transition at T ≈ 2.5 K.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Transport near the halo regions in devices D1 and D2.

a, ρ map in device D2 at T = 2 K, exhibiting a CI state at v = 2 and a halo feature. b, ρ(T) as a function of D at fixed v, acquired along the dashed red line in a. An arch-like feature is observed, similar to the behavior of device D3 shown in Fig. 2a. c, ρ map in device D1 at T = 2 K. A very weak CI state is observed at v = 2, as well as a distorted halo feature. d, ρ(T) acquired at the point marked by the red circle in c. Despite weaker correlations, an abrupt drop in ρ(T) is still observed to accompany the formation of the symmetry-broken halo region.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Transport at B = 9 T in devices D2 and D3.

Maps of ρ at T = 2 K in devices a, D3 and b, D2, along with corresponding antisymmetrized Rxy in c and d. A small out-of-plane B component is also added in b-d in order to perform the (anti)-symmetrization.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Sections 1–3 and Figs.1–8.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Source data for Fig.1b–g.

Source Data Fig. 2

Source data for Fig. 2.

Source Data Fig. 3

Source data for Fig. 3.

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He, M., Li, Y., Cai, J. et al. Symmetry breaking in twisted double bilayer graphene. Nat. Phys. 17, 26–30 (2021).

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