Topological crystalline insulator states in Pb(1-x)Sn(x)Se

Nat Mater. 2012 Dec;11(12):1023-7. doi: 10.1038/nmat3449. Epub 2012 Sep 30.


Topological insulators are a class of quantum materials in which time-reversal symmetry, relativistic effects and an inverted band structure result in the occurrence of electronic metallic states on the surfaces of insulating bulk crystals. These helical states exhibit a Dirac-like energy dispersion across the bulk bandgap, and they are topologically protected. Recent theoretical results have suggested the existence of topological crystalline insulators (TCIs), a class of topological insulators in which crystalline symmetry replaces the role of time-reversal symmetry in ensuring topological protection. In this study we show that the narrow-gap semiconductor Pb(1-x)Sn(x)Se is a TCI for x = 0.23. Temperature-dependent angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy demonstrates that the material undergoes a temperature-driven topological phase transition from a trivial insulator to a TCI. These experimental findings add a new class to the family of topological insulators, and we anticipate that they will lead to a considerable body of further research as well as detailed studies of topological phase transitions.