Role of defects in the carrier-tunable topological-insulator (Bi1-xSbx) 2Te3 thin films

Kane L. Scipioni, Zhenyu Wang, Yulia Maximenko, Ferhat Katmis, Charlie Steiner, Vidya Madhavan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alloys of Bi2Te3 and Sb2Te3[(Bi1-xSbx)2Te3] have played an essential role in the exploration of topological surface states, allowing us to study phenomena that would otherwise be obscured by bulk contributions to conductivity. Despite intensive transport and angle resolved photoemission (ARPES) studies, important questions about this system remain unanswered. For example, previous studies reported the chemical tuning of the Fermi level to the Dirac point by controlling the Sb:Bi composition ratio, but the optimum ratio varies widely across various studies. Moreover, it is unclear how the quasiparticle lifetime is affected by the disorder resulting from Sb/Bi alloying. In this work, we use scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy to study the electronic structure of epitaxially grown (Bi,Sb)2Te3 thin films at the nanoscale. We study Landau levels (LLs) to determine the effect of disorder on the quasiparticle lifetime as well as the position of the Dirac point with respect to the Fermi energy. A plot of the LL peak widths shows that despite the intrinsic disorder, the quasiparticle lifetime is not significantly degraded. We further determine that the ideal Sb concentration to place the Fermi energy to within a few meV of the Dirac point is x∼0.7, but that postannealing temperatures can have a significant effect on the crystallinity and Fermi level position. Specifically, high postgrowth annealing temperature can result in better crystallinity and surface roughness, but also produces a larger Te defect density which adds n-type carriers. Finally, in combination with quasiparticle interference imaging, the dispersion is revealed over a large energy range above the Fermi energy, in a regime inaccessible to ARPES. Interestingly, the surface state dispersion for the x∼0.7 sample shows great similarity to pristine Bi2Te3. This work provides microscopic information on the role of disorder and composition in determining carrier concentration, surface state dispersion, and quasiparticle lifetime in (Bi1-xSbx)2Te3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125150
JournalPhysical Review B
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 28 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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