Liangzhi Kou, Feiming Hu, Binghai Yan,TimWehling, Claudia Felser, Thomas Frauenheim and Changfeng Chen.
Carbon (2015) 87, 418-423.
Graphene is the first model system of two-dimensional topological insulator (TI), also known as quantum spin Hall (QSH) insulator. The QSH effect in graphene, however, has eluded direct experimental detection because of its extremely small energy gap due to the weak spin–orbit coupling. Here we predict by ab initio calculations a giant (three orders of magnitude) proximity induced enhancement of the TI energy gap in the graphene layer that is sandwiched between thin slabs of Sb2Te3 (or MoTe2). This gap (1.5 meV) is accessible by existing experimental techniques, and it can be further enhanced by tuning the interlayer distance via compression. We reveal by a tight-binding study that the QSH state in graphene is driven by the Kane–Mele interaction in competition with Kekulé deformation and symmetry breaking. The present work identifies a new family of graphene-based TIs with an observable and controllable bulk energy gap in the graphene layer, thus opening a new avenue for direct verification and exploration of the long-sought QSH effect in graphene.