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Topological insulators are materials with a bulk excitation gap generated by the spin-orbit interaction that are different from conventional insulators. This distinction is characterized by Z2 topological invariants, which characterize the ground state. In two dimensions, there is a single Z2 invariant that distinguishes the ordinary insulator from the quantum spin-Hall phase. In three dimensions, there are four Z2 invariants that distinguish the ordinary insulator from “weak” and “strong” topological insulators. These phases are characterized by the presence of gapless surface (or edge) states. In the two-dimensional quantum spin-Hall phase and the threedimensional strong topological insulator, these states are robust and are insensitive to weak disorder and interactions. In this paper, we show that the presence of inversion symmetry greatly simplifies the problem of evaluating the Z2 invariants. We show that the invariants can be determined from the knowledge of the parity of the occupied Bloch wave functions at the time-reversal invariant points in the Brillouin zone. Using this approach, we predict a number of specific materials that are strong topological insulators, including the semiconducting alloy Bi1−xSbx as well as α-Sn and HgTe under uniaxial strain. This paper also includes an expanded discussion of our formulation of the topological insulators in both two and three dimensions, as well as implications for experiments.
Date Posted: 18 May 2011
This document has been peer reviewed.