• Korzhovska, I.; Deng, H.; Zhao, L.; Chen, Z.; Konczykowski, M.; Zhao, S.; Raoux, S.; Krusin-Elbaum, L.: Spin memory of the topological material under strong disorder. npj Quantum Materials 5 (2020), p. 39/1-7

Open Accesn Version

Robustness to disorder - the defining property of any topological state - has been mostly tested in low-disorder translationally-invariant materials systems where the protecting underlying symmetry, such as time reversal, is preserved. The ultimate disorder limits to topological protection are still unknown, however, a number of theories predict that even in the amorphous state a quantized conductance might yet reemerge. Here we report a directly detected robust spin response in structurally disordered thin films of the topological material Sb2Te3 free of extrinsic magnetic dopants, which we controllably tune from a strong (amorphous) to a weak crystalline) disorder state. The magnetic signal onsets at a surprisingly high temperature (~ 200 K) and eventually ceases within the crystalline state. We demonstrate that in a strongly disordered state disorder-induced spin correlations dominate the transport of charge - they engender a spin memory phenomenon, generated by the nonequilibrium charge currents controlled by localized spins. The negative magnetoresistance (MR) in the extensive spin-memory phase space is isotropic. Within the crystalline state, it transitions into a positive MR corresponding to the weak antilocalization (WAL) quantum interference effect, with a 2D scaling characteristic of the topological state. Our findings demonstrate that these nonequilibrium currents set a disorder threshold to the topological state; they lay out a path to tunable spin-dependent charge transport and point to new possibilities of spin control by disorder engineering of topological materials