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2Physics Quote:
"Many of the molecules found by ROSINA DFMS in the coma of comet 67P are compatible with the idea that comets delivered key molecules for prebiotic chemistry throughout the solar system and in particular to the early Earth increasing drastically the concentration of life-related chemicals by impact on a closed water body. The fact that glycine was most probably formed on dust grains in the presolar stage also makes these molecules somehow universal, which means that what happened in the solar system could probably happen elsewhere in the Universe."
-- Kathrin Altwegg and the ROSINA Team

(Read Full Article: "Glycine, an Amino Acid and Other Prebiotic Molecules in Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko"

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Discovery of Weyl Fermions, Topological Fermi Arcs and Topological Nodal-Line States of Matter

Princeton University group (click on the picture to view with higher resolution), From left to right: Guang Bian, M. Zahid Hasan (Principal investigator), Nasser Alidoust, Hao Zheng, Daniel S. Sanchez, Suyang Xu and Ilya Belopolski. 

Author: M. Zahid Hasan

Affiliation: Department of Physics, Princeton University, USA

Link to Hasan Research Group: Laboratory for Topological Quantum Matter & Advanced Spectroscopy >>

The eponymous Dirac equation describes the first synthesis of quantum mechanics and special relativity in describing the nature of electron. Its solutions suggest three distinct forms of relativistic particles - the Dirac, Majorana and Weyl fermions [1-3]. In 1929, Hermann Weyl proposed the simplest version of the equation, whose solution predicted massless fermions with a definite chirality or handedness [3]. Weyl’s equation was intended as a model of elementary articles, but in nearly 86 years, no candidate Weyl fermions have ever been established in high-energy experiments. Neutrinos were once thought to be such particles but later found to possess a small mass. Recently, analogs of the fermion particles have been discovered in certain electronic materials that exhibit strong spin-orbit coupling and topological behavior. Just as Dirac fermions emerge as signatures of topological insulators [4], researchers have shown that electronic excitations in semimetals such as tantalum or niobium arsenides (TaAs and NbAs) behave like Weyl fermions [5-7]. And such a behavior is consistent with their topological semimetal bandstructures [8,9].

Past 2Physics article by M. Zahid Hasan:
July 18, 2009: "Topological Insulators : A New State of Quantum Matter"

In 1937 physicist Conyers Herring considered under what conditions electronic bands in solids have the same energy by accident in crystals that lack certain symmetries [10]. Near these accidental band touching points, the low-energy excitations, or electronic quasiparticles can be described by an equation that is essentially identical to the 1929 Weyl equation. In recent times, these touching points have been theoretically studied in the context of topological materials and are referred to as Weyl points and the quasiparticles near them are the emergent Weyl fermions [11]. In these solids, the electrons’ quantum-mechanical wave functions acquire a phase, as though they were moving in a superficial magnetic field that is defined in momentum space. In contrast to a real magnetic field, this fictional field (known as a Berry curvature) admits excitations that behave like magnetic monopoles. These monopoles are topological defects or singularities that locate at the Weyl points. So the real space Weyl points are associated with chiral fermions and in momentum space they behave like magnetic monopoles [11-17]. The fact that Weyl nodes are related to magnetic monopoles suggests they will be found in topological materials that are in the vicinity of a topological phase transition [14,15]. The surface of a topological insulator has a Fermi surface that forms a closed loop in momentum space; in a Weyl semimetal, these loops become non-closed arcs as some symmetry is lifted [11,12]. These Fermi arcs terminate at the location of the bulk Weyl points ensuring their topological nature [12]. Theory had suggested that Weyl semimetals should occur in proximity to topological insulators in which inversion or time-reversal symmetry was broken [12,14,16].

Building on these ideas, researchers, including the Princeton University group, used ab initio calculations to predict candidate materials [8,9] and perform angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy to detect the Fermi arcs, characteristic of Weyl nodes, on the surface of TaAs and NbAs [5-7]. ARPES is an ideal tool for studying such a topological material as known from the extensive body of works on topological insulators [4]. The ARPES technique involves shooting high-energy photons on a material and measuring the energy, momentum and spin of the ejected electrons both from the surface and the bulk. This allows for the explicit determination of both bulk Weyl nodes and the Fermi-arc surface states (Figure 1).
Figure 1: (click on the image to view with high resolution) Weyl fermion and Fermi arcs (a) Schematic of the band structure of a Weyl fermion semimetal. (b) Correspondence of the bulk Weyl fermions to surface Fermi arc states. (c) ARPES mapping of TaAs Fermi surface. (d) Fermi arc surface states and Weyl nodes on the (001) surface of TaAs. (e) Linear dispersion of Weyl quasi-particles in TaAs. (Adapted form Ref. [5])

In the absence of spin-orbit coupling, the tantalum arsenide material is a nodal-line semimetal in which the bulk Fermi surface is a closed loop in momentum space [8,17,18]. With spin-orbit coupling turned on, the loop-shaped nodal line condenses into discrete Weyl points in momentum space [8]. In this sense the topological nodal-line semimetal can be thought of as a state where the Weyl semimetals originate from by further symmetry breaking (Figure 2). Such a state has been considered in theory previously [17] but it lacked concrete experimental realizations. Very recently, the first example of a topological nodal-line semimetal in the lead tantalum selenide (PbTaSe2) materials has been reported experimentally [18]. Even though many predictions existed, no concrete experimentally realizable material was found. These findings suggest that Weyl semimetals [5-7] and nodal-line semimetals [17-18] are the first two examples of topological materials that are intrinsically gapless in contrast to topological insulators [4].
Figure 2: (click on the image to view with high resolution) Topological nodal-line semimetals (a) Schematic of a Weyl semimetal and a topological nodal-line semimetal. (b) ARPES mapping and theoretical simulation of (001)-surface band structure of PbTaSe2 showing the loop-shaped bulk Fermi surface. (c) ARPES spectrum and theoretical band structure along some momentum space directions. (e) Calculated iso-energy band contour showing the nodal line and topological surface states. (Adapted from Ref. [18])

In the 1980s, Nielsen and Ninomiya suggested that exotic effects, like the ABJ (Adler-Bell-Jackiw) chiral anomaly—in which the combination of an applied electric and magnetic fields generates an excess of quasiparticles with a particular chirality—were associated with Weyl fermions and could be observable in 3D crystals [13]. A further correspondence has been established more recently with the increased understanding of materials with band structures that are topologically protected [11-17]. Unusual transport properties that are associated with Weyl fermions, such as a reduction of the electrical resistance in the presence of an applied magnetic field, have already been reported in the TaAs class of materials [19,20] (Figure 3). Weyl materials can also act as a novel platform for topological superconductivity leading to the realization of Weyl-Majorana modes potentially opening a new pathway for investigating qubit possibilities [21]. Weyl particles have also been observed in photonic (bosonic) crystals. In these systems the number of optical modes has an unusual scaling with the volume of the photonic crystal, which may allow for the construction of large-volume single-mode lasers [22]. Development in the last few months seems to suggest that Weyl particles are indeed associated with a number of unexpected quantum phenomena and these findings may lead to applications in next-generation photonics and electronics.
Figure 3: (click on the image to view with high resolution) Signature of the chiral anomaly in the Weyl fermion semimetal TaAs. (a) Magneto-resistance (MR) data of the Weyl semimetal TaAs in the presence of parallel electric and magnetic fields at T = 2 K. The MR decreases as one increases the magnetic field. (b) MR as a function of angle between the electric and the magnetic fields. The negative magneto-resistance is quickly suppressed as one varies the direction of the magnetic ~B field away from that of the electric ~E field. The observed negative MR and its angular dependence serve as the key signature of the chiral anomaly. (c,d) Landau energy spectra of the left- and right-handed Weyl fermions in the presence of parallel electric and magnetic fields. (Adapted from Ref. [20])

[1] Frank Wilczek “Why are there analogies between condensed matter and particle theory?” Physics Today, 51, 11–13 (1998). Abstract.
[2] Palash B. Pal, “Dirac, Majorana and Weyl fermions”, American Journal of Physics, 79, 485–498 (2011). Abstract.
[3] Hermann Weyl, “Elektron und Gravitation. I”, Zeitschrift für Physik, 56, 330 (1929). Abstract.
[4] M. Z. Hasan and C.L. Kane “Topological Insulators”, Review of Modern Physics, 82, 3045 (2010). Abstract.
[5] Su-Yang Xu, Ilya Belopolski, Nasser Alidoust, Madhab Neupane, Guang Bian, Chenglong Zhang, Raman Sankar, Guoqing Chang, Zhujun Yuan, Chi-Cheng Lee, Shin-Ming Huang, Hao Zheng, Jie Ma, Daniel S. Sanchez, BaoKai Wang, Arun Bansil, Fangcheng Chou, Pavel P. Shibayev, Hsin Lin, Shuang Jia, M. Zahid Hasan, “Discovery of a Weyl Fermion Semimetal and Topological Fermi Arcs in TaAs”,  Science, 349, 613 (2015). Abstract.
[6] Su-Yang Xu, Nasser Alidoust, Ilya Belopolski, Zhujun Yuan, Guang Bian, Tay-Rong Chang, Hao Zheng, Vladimir N. Strocov, Daniel S. Sanchez, Guoqing Chang, Chenglong Zhang, Daixiang Mou, Yun Wu, Lunan Huang, Chi-Cheng Lee, Shin-Ming Huang, BaoKai Wang, Arun Bansil, Horng-Tay Jeng, Titus Neupert, Adam Kaminski, Hsin Lin, Shuang Jia, M. Zahid Hasan, “Discovery of a Weyl Fermion state with Fermi arcs in NbAs”, Nature Physics, 11, 748 (2015). Abstract.
[7] B.Q. Lv, H.M. Weng, B.B. Fu, X.P. Wang, H. Miao, J. Ma, P. Richard, X.C. Huang, L.X. Zhao, G.F. Chen, Z. Fang, X. Dai, T. Qian, H. Ding, “Experimental Discovery of Weyl Semimetal TaAs”, Physical Review X, 5, 031013 (2015). Abstract; B.Q. Lv, N. Xu, H.M. Weng, J.Z. Ma, P. Richard, X.C. Huang, L.X. Zhao, G.F. Chen, C.E. Matt, F. Bisti, V.N. Strocov, J. Mesot, Z. Fang, X. Dai, T. Qian, M. Shi, H. Ding, "Observation of Weyl nodes in TaAs", Nature Physics, 11, 724 (2015). Abstract.
[8] Shin-Ming Huang, Su-Yang Xu, Ilya Belopolski, Chi-Cheng Lee, Guoqing Chang, BaoKai Wang, Nasser Alidoust, Guang Bian, Madhab Neupane, Chenglong Zhang, Shuang Jia, Arun Bansil, Hsin Lin, M. Zahid Hasan, “A Weyl Fermion Semimetal with Surface Fermi Arcs in the Transition Metal Monopnictide TaAs Class”, Nature Communications, 6, 7373 (2015). Abstract.
[9] Hongming Weng, Chen Fang, Zhong Fang, B. Andrei Bernevig, Xi Dai, “Weyl Semimetal Phase in Noncentrosymmetric Transition-Metal Monophosphides”, Physical Review X, 5, 011029 (2015). Abstract.
[10] Conyers Herring, “Accidental Degeneracy in the Energy Bands of Crystals”, Physical Review, 52, 365-373 (1937). Abstract.
[11] Ashvin Vishwanath, “Viewpoint: Where the Weyl Things Are”, Physics, 8, 84 (2015). Full Text.
[12] Xiangang Wan, Ari M. Turner, Ashvin Vishwanath, Sergey Y. Savrasov, “Topological Semimetal and Fermi-Arc Surface States in the Electronic Structure of Pyrochlore Iridates”, Physical Review B, 83, 205101 (2011). Abstract.
[13] H. B. Nielsen, Masao Ninomiya, “The Adler-Bell-Jackiw Anomaly and Weyl Fermions in a Crystal”, Physics Letters B, 130, 389 (1983). Abstract.
[14] Shuichi Murakami, “Phase Transition Between the Quantum Spin Hall and Insulator Phases in 3D: Emergence of a Topological Gapless Phase”, New Journal of Physics, 9, 356 (2007). Full Text.
[15] Grigory E. Volovik, "The Universe in a Helium Droplet", Oxford University Press (2003).
[16] A.A. Burkov, Leon Balents, "Weyl semimetal in a Topological Insulator multilayer", Physical Review Letters, 107, 127205 (2011). Abstract.
[17] A. A. Burkov, M. D. Hook, Leon Balents, "Topological Nodal Semimetals", Physical Review B, 84, 235126 (2011). Abstract.
[18] Guang Bian, Tay-Rong Chang, Raman Sankar, Su-Yang Xu, Hao Zheng, Titus Neupert, Ching-Kai Chiu, Shin-Ming Huang, Guoqing Chang, Ilya Belopolski, Daniel S. Sanchez, Madhab Neupane, Nasser Alidoust, Chang Liu, BaoKai Wang, Chi-Cheng Lee, Horng-Tay Jeng, Chenglong Zhang, Zhujun Yuan, Shuang Jia, Arun Bansil, Fangcheng Chou, Hsin Lin, M. Zahid Hasan , "Topological Nodal-Line Fermions in Spin-Orbit Metal PbTaSe2", Nature Communications", 7:10556 (2016). Abstract.
[19] Xiaochun Huang, Lingxiao Zhao, Yujia Long, Peipei Wang, Dong Chen, Zhanhai Yang, Hui Liang, Mianqi Xue, Hongming Weng, Zhong Fang, Xi Dai, Genfu Chen, "Observation of the chiral anomaly induced negative magneto-resistance in 3D Weyl semi-metal TaAs", Physical Review X, 5, 031023 (2015). Abstract.
[20] Chenglong Zhang, Su-Yang Xu, Ilya Belopolski, Zhujun Yuan, Ziquan Lin, Bingbing Tong, Nasser Alidoust, Chi-Cheng Lee, Shin-Ming Huang, Hsin Lin, Madhab Neupane, Daniel S. Sanchez, Hao Zheng, Guang Bian, Junfeng Wang, Chi Zhang, Titus Neupert, M. Zahid Hasan, Shuang Jia, "Observation of the Adler-Bell-Jackiw chiral anomaly in a Weyl semimetal", arXiv:1503.02630 [cond-mat.mes-hall] (2015). [To appear in Nature Communications].
[21] Anffany Chen, M. Franz, "Superconducting proximity effect and Majorana flat bands in the surface of a Weyl semimetal", arXiv:1601.01727 [cond-mat.supr-con] (2016).
[22] Ling Lu, Zhiyu Wang, Dexin Ye, Lixin Ran, Liang Fu, John D. Joannopoulos, Marin Soljačić, “Experimental Observation of Weyl Points”, Science, 349, 622 (2015). Abstract.

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