Unprotected edge modes in quantum spin Hall insulator candidate materials

Nguyen Minh Nguyen, Giuseppe Cuono, Rajibul Islam, Carmine Autieri, Timo Hyart, Wojciech Brzezicki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


The experiments in quantum spin Hall insulator candidate materials, such as HgTe/CdTe and InAs/GaSb heterostructures, indicate that in addition to the topologically protected helical edge modes, these multilayer heterostructures may also support additional edge states, which can contribute to scattering and transport. We use first-principles calculations to derive an effective tight-binding model for HgTe/CdTe, HgS/CdTe, and InAs/GaSb heterostructures, and we show that all these materials support additional edge states which are sensitive to edge termination. We trace the microscopic origin of these states back to a minimal model supporting flat bands with a nontrivial quantum geometry that gives rise to polarization charges at the edges. We show that the polarization charges transform into additional edge states when the flat bands are coupled to each other and to the other states to form the Hamiltonian describing the full heterostructure. Interestingly, in HgTe/CdTe quantum wells the additional edge states are far away from the Fermi level so that they do not contribute to the transport, but in the HgS/CdTe and InAs/GaSb heterostructures they appear within the bulk energy gap, giving rise to the possibility of multimode edge transport. Finally, we demonstrate that because these additional edge modes are nontopological it is possible to remove them from the bulk energy gap by modifying the edge potential, for example, with the help of a side gate or chemical doping.

Original languageEnglish
Article number045138
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical Review B
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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