Prediction of weak topological insulators in layered semiconductors

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Sep 14;109(11):116406. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.116406. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


We report the discovery of weak topological insulators by ab initio calculations in a honeycomb lattice. We propose a structure with an odd number of layers in the primitive unit cell as a prerequisite for forming weak topological insulators. Here, the single-layered KHgSb is the most suitable candidate for its large bulk energy gap of 0.24 eV. Its side surface hosts metallic surface states, forming two anisotropic Dirac cones. Although the stacking of even-layered structures leads to trivial insulators, the structures can host a quantum spin Hall layer with a large bulk gap, if an additional single layer exists as a stacking fault in the crystal. The reported honeycomb compounds can serve as prototypes to aid in the finding of new weak topological insulators in layered small-gap semiconductors.