Controlling and visualizing Dirac physics in topological semimetal heterostructures

Sci Adv. 2022 Jul 8;8(27):eabn4479. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abn4479. Epub 2022 Jul 8.


A bulk crystal of cadmium arsenide is a three-dimensional Dirac semimetal, but, in a thin film, it can behave like a three-dimensional topological insulator. This tunability provides unique opportunities to manipulate and explore a topological insulator phase. However, an obstacle to engineering such tunability is the subtlety of transport-based discriminants for topological phases. In this work, the quantum capacitance of cadmium arsenide-based heterostructures provides two direct experimental signatures of three-dimensional topological insulator physics: an insulating three-dimensional bulk and a Landau level at zero energy that does not disperse in a magnetic field. We proceed to join our ability to see these fingerprints of the topological surface states with flexibility afforded by our epitaxial heterostructures to demonstrate a route toward controlling the energy of the Dirac nodes on each surface. These results point to new avenues for engineering topological insulators based on cadmium arsenide.