Katja Nowack (Cornell University): Imaging Current in Two-Dimensional Topological Insulators

The current in a two-dimensional topological insulator (2D TI) is expected to be carried by edge channels, which so far is only evidenced by transport measurements. At Stanford we have imaged the current density in HgTe quantum well as well as in InAs/GaSb quantum wells, the first and second experimentally realized TIs, and directly observed that current flows in the edges. The measurement principle is shown in the cartoon. A current (blue) flows at the edge of a device (green), producing a magnetic field (red) that is measured by detecting the flux through the SQUID’s  pickup loop (white). For a two-dimensional current density we can reconstruct the current distribution from the flux image. An example is shown on the right. The normalized x-component of the current density when the Fermi level in the device is tuned into the bulk energy gap. shows that the current flow along the edge of the device.