skip to main content

Title: Observation of Chiral Surface Excitons in a Topological Insulator Bi_2Se_3
We observe novel composite particles -- chiral excitons -- residing on the surface of a topological insulator (TI), Bi_2Se_3. Unlike other known excitons composed of massive quasiparticles, chiral excitons are the bound states of surface massless electrons and surface massive holes, both subject to strong spin-orbit coupling which locks their spins and momenta into chiral textures. Due to this unusual feature, chiral excitons emit circularly polarized secondary light (photoluminescence) that conserves the polarization of incident light. This means that the out-of-plane angular momentum of a chiral excitonis preserved against scattering events during thermalization, thus enabling optical orientation of carriers even at room temperature. The discovery of chiral excitons adds to the potential of TIs as a platform for photonics and optoelectronics devices.
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1720816
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10093633
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume:
116
Issue:
10
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
4006-4011
ISSN:
0027-8424
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The protected electron states at the boundaries or on the surfaces of topological insulators (TIs) have been the subject of intense theoretical and experimental investigations. Such states are enforced by very strong spin–orbit interaction in solids composed of heavy elements. Here, we study the composite particles—chiral excitons—formed by the Coulomb attraction between electrons and holes residing on the surface of an archetypical 3D TI,Bi2Se3. Photoluminescence (PL) emission arising due to recombination of excitons in conventional semiconductors is usually unpolarized because of scattering by phonons and other degrees of freedom during exciton thermalization. On the contrary, we observe almost perfectly polarization-preserving PL emission from chiral excitons. We demonstrate that the chiral excitons can be optically oriented with circularly polarized light in a broad range of excitation energies, even when the latter deviate from the (apparent) optical band gap by hundreds of millielectronvolts, and that the orientation remains preserved even at room temperature. Based on the dependences of the PL spectra on the energy and polarization of incident photons, we propose that chiral excitons are made from massive holes and massless (Dirac) electrons, both with chiral spin textures enforced by strong spin–orbit coupling. A theoretical model basedmore »on this proposal describes quantitatively the experimental observations. The optical orientation of composite particles, the chiral excitons, emerges as a general result of strong spin–orbit coupling in a 2D electron system. Our findings can potentially expand applications of TIs in photonics and optoelectronics.

    « less
  2. Topological photonics in strongly coupled light-matter systems offer the possibility for fabricating tunable optical devices that are robust against disorder and defects. Topological polaritons, i.e., hybrid exciton-photon quasiparticles, have been proposed to demonstrate scatter-free chiral propagation, but their experimental realization to date has been at deep cryogenic temperatures and under strong magnetic fields. We demonstrate helical topological polaritons up to 200 kelvin without external magnetic field in monolayer WS2excitons coupled to a nontrivial photonic crystal protected by pseudo time-reversal symmetry. The helical nature of the topological polaritons, where polaritons with opposite helicities are transported to opposite directions, is verified. Topological helical polaritons provide a platform for developing robust and tunable polaritonic spintronic devices for classical and quantum information-processing applications.

  3. Hybrid materials comprised of inorganic quantum dots functionalized with small-molecule organic chromophores have emerged as promising materials for reshaping light's energy content. Quantum dots in these structures can serve as light harvesting antennas that absorb photons and pass their energy to molecules bound to their surface in the form of spin-triplet excitons. Energy passed in this manner can fuel upconversion schemes that use triplet fusion to convert infrared light into visible emission. Likewise, triplet excitons passed in the opposite direction, from molecules to quantum dots, can enable solar cells that use singlet fission to circumvent the Shockley–Queisser limit. Silicon QDs represent a key target for these hybrid materials due to silicon's biocompatibility and preeminence within the solar energy market. However, while triplet transfer from silicon QDs to molecules has been observed, no reports to date have shown evidence of energy moving in the reverse direction. Here, we address this gap by creating silicon QDs functionalized with perylene chromophores that exhibit bidirectional triplet exciton transfer. Using transient absorption, we find triplet transfer from silicon to perylene takes place over 4.2 μs while energy transfer in the reverse direction occurs two orders of magnitude faster, on a 22 ns timescale. To demonstratemore »this system's utility, we use it to create a photon upconversion system that generates blue emission at 475 nm using photons with wavelengths as long as 730 nm. Our work shows formation of covalent linkages between silicon and organic molecules can provide sufficient electronic coupling to allow efficient bidirectional triplet exchange, enabling new technologies for photon conversion.« less
  4. Extreme ultraviolet (XUV) light sources based on high harmonic generation are enabling the development of novel spectroscopic methods to help advance the frontiers of ultrafast science and technology. In this account we discuss the development of XUV-RA spectroscopy at near grazing incident reflection geometry and highlight recent applications of this method to study ultrafast electron dynamics at surfaces. Measuring core-to-valence transitions with broadband, femtosecond pulses of XUV light extends the benefits of x-ray absorption spectroscopy to a laboratory tabletop by providing a chemical fingerprint of materials, including the ability to resolve individual elements with sensitivity to oxidation state, spin state, carrier polarity, and coordination geometry. Combining this chemical state sensitivity with femtosecond time resolution provides new insight into the material properties that govern charge carrier dynamics in complex materials. It is well known that surface dynamics differ significantly from equivalent processes in bulk materials, and that charge separation, trapping, transport, and recombination occurring uniquely at surfaces governs the efficiency of numerous technologically relevant processes spanning photocatalysis, photovoltaics, and information storage and processing. Importantly, XUV-RA spectroscopy at near grazing angle is also surface sensitive with a probe depth of 3 nm, providing a new window into electronic and structural dynamics atmore »surfaces and interfaces. Here we highlight the unique capabilities and recent applications of XUVRA spectroscopy to study photo-induced surface dynamics in metal oxide semiconductors, including photocatalytic oxides (Fe2O3, Co3O4 NiO, and CuFeO2) as well as photoswitchable magnetic oxide (CoFe2O4). We first compare the ultrafast electron self-trapping rates via small polaron formation at the surface and bulk of Fe2O3 where we note that the energetics and kinetics of this process differ significantly at the surface. Additionally, we demonstrate the ability to systematically tune this kinetics by molecular functionalization, thereby, providing a route to control carrier transport at surfaces. We also measure the spectral signatures of charge transfer excitons with site specific localization of both electrons and holes in a series of transition metal oxide semiconductors (Fe2O3, NiO, Co3O4). The presence of valence band holes probed at the oxygen L1-edge confirms a direct relationship between the metal-oxygen bond covalency and water oxidation efficiency. For a mixed metal oxide CuFeO2 in the layered delafossite structure, XUV-RA reveals that the sub-picosecond hole thermalization from O 2p to Cu 3d states of CuFeO2 leads to the spatial separation of electrons and holes, resulting in exceptional photocatalytic performance for H2 evolution and CO2 reduction of this material. Finally, we provide an example to show the ability of XUV-RA to probe spin state specific dynamics in a the photo-switchable ferrimagnet, cobalt ferrite (CoFe2O4). This study provides a detailed understating of ultrafast spin switching in a complex magnetic material with site-specific resolution. In summary, the applications of XUV-RA spectroscopy demonstrated here illustrate the current abilities and future promise of this method to extend molecule-level understanding from well-defined photochemical complexes to complex materials so that charge and spin dynamics at surfaces can be tuned with the precision of molecular photochemistry.« less
  5. Abstract The interplay between chirality and magnetism generates a distinct physical process, the magneto-chiral effect, which enables one to develop functionalities that cannot be achieved solely by any of the two. Such a process is universal with the breaking of parity-inversion and time-reversal symmetry simultaneously. However, the magneto-chiral effect observed so far is weak when the matter responds to photons, electrons, or phonons. Here we report the first observation of strong magneto-chiral response to excitons in a twisted bilayer tungsten disulfide with the amplitude of excitonic magneto-chiral (ExMCh) anisotropy reaches a value of ~4%. We further found the ExMCh anisotropy features with a spectral splitting of ~7 nm, precisely the full-width at half maximum of the excitonic chirality spectrum. Without an externally applied strong magnetic field, the observed ExMCh effect with a spontaneous magnetic moment from the ferromagnetic substrate of thulium iron garnet at room temperature is favorable for device applications. The unique ExMCh processes provide a new pathway to actively control magneto-chiral applications in photochemical reactions, asymmetric synthesis, and drug delivery.