Research ArticlePHYSICS

Emergence of topological semimetals in gap closing in semiconductors without inversion symmetry

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Science Advances  12 May 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 5, e1602680
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602680


A band gap for electronic states in crystals governs various properties of solids, such as transport, optical, and magnetic properties. Its estimation and control have been an important issue in solid-state physics. The band gap can be controlled externally by various parameters, such as pressure, atomic compositions, and external field. Sometimes, the gap even collapses by tuning some parameter. In the field of topological insulators, this closing of the gap at a time-reversal invariant momentum indicates a band inversion, that is, it leads to a topological phase transition from a normal insulator to a topological insulator. We show, through an exhaustive study on possible space groups, that the gap closing in inversion-asymmetric crystals is universal, in the sense that the gap closing always leads either to a Weyl semimetal or to a nodal-line semimetal. We consider three-dimensional spinful systems with time-reversal symmetry. The space group of the system and the wave vector at the gap closing uniquely determine which possibility occurs and where the gap-closing points or lines lie in the wave vector space after the closing of the gap. In particular, we show that an insulator-to-insulator transition never happens, which is in sharp contrast to inversion-symmetric systems.

  • Topological Semimetal
  • Weyl semimetal
  • semiconductor
  • topological insulator
  • nodal-line semimetal
  • Spin-orbit coupling
  • topological phase

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