Visualizing the chiral anomaly in Dirac and Weyl semimetals with photoemission spectroscopy

Jan Behrends, Adolfo G. Grushin, Teemu Ojanen, Jens H. Bardarson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
242 Downloads (Pure)


Quantum anomalies are the breaking of a classical symmetry by quantum fluctuations. They dictate how physical systems of diverse nature, ranging from fundamental particles to crystalline materials, respond topologically to external perturbations, insensitive to local details. The anomaly paradigm was triggered by the discovery of the chiral anomaly that contributes to the decay of pions into photons and influences the motion of superfluid vortices in He3-A. In the solid state, it also fundamentally affects the properties of topological Weyl and Dirac semimetals, recently realized experimentally. In this work we propose that the most identifying consequence of the chiral anomaly, the charge density imbalance between fermions of different chirality induced by nonorthogonal electric and magnetic fields, can be directly observed in these materials with the existing technology of photoemission spectroscopy. With angle resolution, the chiral anomaly is identified by a characteristic note-shaped pattern of the emission spectra, originating from the imbalanced occupation of the bulk states and a previously unreported momentum dependent energy shift of the surface state Fermi arcs. We further demonstrate that the chiral anomaly likewise leaves an imprint in angle averaged emission spectra, facilitating its experimental detection. Thereby, our work provides essential theoretical input to foster the direct visualization of the chiral anomaly in condensed matter, in contrast to transport properties, such as negative magnetoresistance, which can also be obtained in the absence of a chiral anomaly.

Original languageEnglish
Article number075114
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Review B
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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