Unconventional chiral charge order in kagome superconductor KV$_3$Sb$_5$

Y. Jiang, J. Yin, M. M. Denner, N. Shumiya, B. R. Ortiz, G. Xu, Z. Guguchia, J. He, M. S. Hossain, X. Liu, J. Ruff, L. Kautzsch, S. S. Zhang, G. Chang, I. Belopolski, Q. Zhang, T. A. Cochran, D. Multer, M. Litskevich, Z. Cheng, X. P. Yang, Z. Wang, R. Thomale, T. Neupert, S. D. Wilson, and M. Z. Hasan


Intertwining quantum order and non-trivial topology is at the frontier of condensed matter physics. A charge-density-wave-like order with orbital currents has been proposed for achieving the quantum anomalous Hall effect5,6 in topological materials and for the hidden phase in cuprate high-temperature superconductors7,8. However, the experimental realization of such an order is challenging. Here we use high-resolution scanning tunnelling microscopy to discover an unconventional chiral charge order in a kagome material, KV$_3$Sb$_5$, with both a topological band structure and a superconducting ground state. Through both topography and spectroscopic imaging, we observe a robust 2 × 2 superlattice. Spectroscopically, an energy gap opens at the Fermi level, across which the 2 × 2 charge modulation exhibits an intensity reversal in real space, signalling charge ordering. At the impurity-pinning-free region, the strength of intrinsic charge modulations further exhibits chiral anisotropy with unusual magnetic field response. Theoretical analysis of our experiments suggests a tantalizing unconventional chiral charge density wave in the frustrated kagome lattice, which can not only lead to a large anomalous Hall effect with orbital magnetism, but also be a precursor of unconventional superconductivity.

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