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Topological crystalline insulator candidate ErAsS with hourglass fermion and magnetic-tuned topological phase transition

Date:05-09-2022 Print

Exploring novel topological materials and related phase transitions has been a central research theme in condensed matter physics and material science. Topological materials with nontrivial anti-band crossings have attracted much attention. Hourglass fermion surface state locating at the vertex in the neck of an hourglass-like dispersion, enables exploration of remarkable topological phases, such as the hourglass Weyl point, movement along high symmetry lines, and hourglass nodal chains or net. By introducing nonsymmorphic symmetry-preserved interlayer couplings, the hourglass fermion surface state in topological crystalline insulators (TCIs) can be obtained. Since Wang et al. theoretically predicted the nonsymmorphic TCIs KHgX (X = As, Sb, and Bi) having the hourglass-like dispersion (Nature, 2016, 532, 189-194) in 2016, the experiments using different techniques have been conducted to observe the hourglass-like dispersion in KHgSb, layered compounds M3SiTe6 (M = Nb, Ta), and three-dimensional bulk systems like perovskite iridates or some oxides with nonsymmorphic symmetry. However, hourglass fermion surface states are rarely verified for the drawbacks including air-sensitivity, miscellaneous band dispersions crossing Fermi level (EF), and challenging of cleavage in the candidates mentioned above. Thus, it is highly desired to discover suitable candidate materials with hourglass fermion surface states to explore their intriguing properties and new topological phases.

In 2020, Qian et al. theoretically demonstrated that hourglass fermion surface state can be realized in orthorhombic LaSbTe with zig-zag Sb-atom layers stacking along the a axis with nonsymmorphic symmetry (Sci. China Phys. Mech. Astron., 2020, 63, 107011). However, orthorhombic LaSbTe has not become experimentally available so far, rather tetragonal LaSbTe (Phys. Rev. B, 2021, 103, 125131) and La-substituted RESbTe (RE = rare earth) have been reported.

Recently, Hongxiang Chen, Long Chen, Prof. Gang Wang, Prof. Xiaolong Chen, and Jiacheng Gao, Prof. Hongming Weng from Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOP, CAS) in collaboration with Prof. Tian Qian, Prof. Lan Chen and Dr. Qinghua Zhang from IOP, CAS, Prof. Jie Ma from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Dr. Feng Ye from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dr. Juanjuan Liu and Dr. Jincheng Wang from Renmin University of China, Dr. Jieming Sheng from Southern University of Science and Technology and other colleagues, have designed and successfully synthesized a new layered air-stable topological crystalline insulator candidate ErAsS. The crystal structure of ErAsS is determined to be orthorhombic Pnma (No. 62) using single crystal X-ray diffraction and further confirmed by high-angle annular-dark-field using scanning transmission electron microscopy. According to the results of single crystal neutron diffraction at COROLLI, SNS and first principles calculations, the distorted As-atom layer and magnetic order of Er in this newly discovered material induce not only the hourglass fermion surface state, but also the magnetic-tuned exotic phases including the possible magnetic topological crystalline insulator.

These results show a new and experimentally available TCI candidate with hourglass fermion surface state and exotic phases tuned by magnetic structure, demonstrating the potential of deeply investigating the hourglass fermion surface state and the interplay between magnetism and topology.

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, National Key Research and Development Program of China, Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Figure 1 The crystal structure and magnetic-tuned exotic phases in ErAsS. (Image by Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Xiaolong Chen

Key words:
Topological crystalline insulator, hourglass fermion surface state, distortion, magnetic structures.

Topological crystalline insulators (TCIs) with hourglass fermion surface state have attracted a lot of attention and are further enriched by crystalline symmetries and magnetic order. Here, we show the emergence of hourglass fermion surface state and exotic phases in the newly discovered, air-stable ErAsS single crystals. In the paramagnetic phase, ErAsS is expected to be a TCI with hourglass fermion surface state protected by the nonsymmorphic symmetry. Dirac-cone like bands and nearly linear dispersions in large energy range are experimentally observed, consistent well with theoretical calculations. Below TN ~ 3.27 K, ErAsS enters a collinear antiferromagnetic state, which is a trivial insulator breaking the time-reversal symmetry. An intermediate incommensurate magnetic state appears in a narrow temperature range (3.27 K – 3.65 K), exhibiting an abrupt change in magnetic coupling. The results reveal that ErAsS is an experimentally available TCI candidate and provide a unique platform to understand the formation of hourglass fermion surface state and explore magnetic-tuned topological phase transitions.