Chemical Aspects of the Candidate Antiferromagnetic Topological Insulator MnBi$_2$Te$_4$

A. Zeugner, F. Nietschke, A. U. B. Wolter, S. Gaß, R. C. Vidal, T. R. F. Peixoto, D. Pohl, C. Damm, A. Lubk, R. Hentrich, S. K. Moser, C. Fornari, C. H. Min, S. Schatz, K. Kißner, M. Ünzelmann, M. Kaiser, F. Scaravaggi, B. Rellinghaus, K. Nielsch, C. Hess, B. Büchner, F. Reinert, H. Bentmann, O. Oeckler, T. Doert, M. Ruck, and A. Isaeva


High-quality single crystals of MnBi$_2$Te$_4$ are grown for the first time by slow cooling within a narrow range between the melting points of Bi$_2$Te$_3$ (586 °C) and MnBi$_2$Te$_4$ (600 °C). Single-crystal X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy reveal ubiquitous antisite defects in both cation sites and, possibly, Mn vacancies (Mn$_{0.85}$(3)Bi$_{2.10}$(3)Te_4). Thermochemical studies complemented with high-temperature X-ray diffraction establish a limited high-temperature range of phase stability and metastability at room temperature. Nevertheless, the synthesis of MnBi2Te4 can be scaled-up as powders can be obtained at subsolidus temperatures and quenched at room temperature. Bulk samples exhibit long-range antiferromagnetic ordering below 24 K. The Mn(II) out-of-plane magnetic state is confirmed by the magnetization, X-ray photoemission, X-ray absorption, and linear dichroism measurements. The compound shows a metallic type of resistivity in the range 4.5–300 K and is an n-type conductor that reaches a thermoelectric figure of merit up to ZT = 0.17. Angle-resolved photoemission experiments show a surface state forming a gapped Dirac cone, thus strengthening MnBi$_2$Te$_4$ as a promising candidate for the intrinsic magnetic topological insulator, in accordance with theoretical predictions. The developed synthetic protocols enable further experimental studies of a crossover between magnetic ordering and nontrivial topology in bulk MnBi$_2$Te$_4$.

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