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Manipulating long-lived topological surface photovoltage in bulk-insulating topological insulators Bi2Se3 and Bi2Te3


The appearance of topologically protected spin-momentum locked surface states in topological insulators gives rise to robust room temperature spin currents making them ideal candidates for the realization of spintronic devices. New methods are needed to access and manipulate such currents with timescales that are compatible with modern electronics. Here we reveal that an optically induced long-lived (~10 ns), spin-polarized surface state excitation in topological insulators can be easily tuned in both magnitude and duration. Time-resolved angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, together with a quantitative model, reveals the ideal conditions for a surface photovoltage in two different topological insulators. Our model predicts that the reported effects are an intrinsic property of topological insulators, as long as the chemical potential falls within the band gap. This work demonstrates that persistent excited topological surface states are photon-accessible and easily tuned in both magnitude and duration, merging photonics- and spintronics-based devices in the same material.

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