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Resistivity of Surface Steps in Bulk-Insulating Topological Insulators...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Frontiers in Materials
Publication Date
Page Numbers
887484 to 887484

Electron transport in topological insulators usually involves both topologically protected surface states and trivial electronic states in the bulk material. The surface transport is particularly interesting; however, it is also susceptible to atomic defects on the surfaces, such as vacancies, impurities, and step edges. Experimental determination of scattering effects of these surface defects requires both nanoscale spatial resolution and the ability to decipher surface transport from bulk transport. Here we directly measure the resistivity of individual surface steps in the surface dominating transport process of topological insulator Bi2Te2Se. A variable probe-spacing transport spectroscopy with a multiprobe scanning tunneling microscope is used to differentiate the surface conductance from bulk conductance, allowing the identification of a surface dominant transport regime. The technique also reveals a deviation from ideal 2D transport at atomic steps. Then, a multi-probe scanning tunneling potentiometry is employed to visualize the electrochemical potentials across individual step edges. A quantitative analysis of the potential distributions enables us to acquire a resistivity of 0.530 mΩ · cm for the one quintuple-layer atomic step. The result indicates that atomic defects, despite preserving the time-reversal symmetry, can still significantly affect the transport in topological insulators.