DOI: 10.1063/5.0172254 ISSN: 0021-8979

Bloch oscillations probed quantum phases in HgTe quantum wells

Abdullah Yar
  • General Physics and Astronomy

The semiconductor quantum well based on mercury telluride is characterized by two distinct phases: conventional insulating phase and topological insulating phase with helical edge states. The system undergoes a topological quantum phase transition from one phase to the other, tuned by the critical geometric parameters of the quantum well. It is shown that the quantum states in each phase exhibit distinct flavors of Bloch oscillations, depending strongly on the geometric parameters and crystal momentum of the system. In particular, the group and Berry velocities and the real-space trajectories exhibit pronounced Bloch oscillations. Interestingly, the x- and y-components of the group velocity are interchanged by interchanging their corresponding components of the crystal momentum. In addition, a Gaussian wave packet undergoes distinct time evolution in each quantum phase of the HgTe quantum well. Moreover, the effects of applied in-plane electric and transverse magnetic fields are determined within the framework of Newtonian mechanics, leading to the geometric visualization of such an oscillatory motion. We find that in the presence of both applied in-plane electric and transverse magnetic fields simultaneously, the system undergoes a dynamic phase transition between confined and de-confined states, tuned by the relative strength of the fields. It is argued that the distinct Bloch oscillations originate from the peculiar band structure of HgTe quantum wells in each quantum phase. Furthermore, we find that the direct-current drift velocity in each quantum phase exhibits negative differential conductivity, a hallmark of the Bloch oscillation regime.

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