Theses Doctoral

Novel correlated quantum phases in moiré transition metal dichalcogenides

Ghiotto, Augusto

In narrow electron bands in which the Coulomb interaction energy becomes comparable to the bandwidth, interactions can drive new quantum phases. In this dissertation, we achieve narrow bands by twisting two atomically thin layers of the semiconducting van der Waals material WSe₂. The resulting moiré potential from the twist angle modulates the electronic bands, yielding minibands of tens of meV on the valence band. We perform transport measurements at cryogenic temperatures and observe signatures of collective phases over twist angles that range from 4 to 5.1°.

At half-band filling, a correlated insulator appeared that is tunable with both twist angle and displacement field. Near the boundary between ordered and disordered quantum phases, several experiments have demonstrated metallic behaviour that defies the Landau Fermi paradigm. We find that the metal-insulator transition as a function of both density and displacement field is continuous. At the metal–insulator boundary, the resistivity displays strange metal behaviour at low temperatures, with dissipation comparable to that at the Planckian limit. Further into the metallic phase, Fermi liquid behaviour is recovered at low temperature, and this evolves into a quantum critical fan at intermediate temperatures, before eventually reaching an anomalous saturated regime near room temperature. An analysis of the residual resistivity indicates the presence of strong quantum fluctuations in the insulating phase. We further show via magnetotransport measurements that new correlated electronic phases can exist independent of moiré commensurability, and are instead driven by weak interactions in twisted WSe₂.

The first of these phases is an antiferromagnetic metal that is driven by proximity to the van Hove singularity (vHS), which trails a range of incommensurate dopings. The temperature, magnetic field and density dependence of the Hall effect carry signatures of the reconstructed Fermi surface due to itinerant magnetic ordering. The second is an excitonic metal-insulator phase that exists at high external magnetic field in the vicinity of half-filling of the moiré superlattice. For a 4.2° sample, magnetic field dependence of the longitudinal resistance shows metallic behavior at fields above 5 T, but transitions to an insulating state above ∼ 24 T. A detailed analysis of of the Landau fans and the high field 𝝆_𝜘𝛾 near the gap rules out the possibility of a trivial insulator. We propose an Ising excitonic insulator as the most likely scenario.

Moreover, in the electron-imbalanced excitonic metal, a set of correlated Landau levels emerge. The observation of tunable collective phases in a simple band, which hosts only two holes per unit cell at full filling, establishes twisted bilayer transition metal dichalcogenides as an ideal platform to study correlated physics in two dimensions on a triangular lattice.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Pasupathy, Abhay
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 6, 2023