First prediction of spin Hall effect in Weyl semimetals

Y Sun, Y Zhang, C Felser, B Yan, Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 146403 (2016).

Since their discovery, topological insulators are expected to be ideal spintronic materials owing to the spin currents carried by surface states with spin-momentum locking. However, the bulk doping problem remains an obstacle that hinders such an application. In this work, we predict that a newly discovered family of topological materials, the Weyl semimetals, exhibits a large intrinsic spin Hall effect that can be utilized to generate and detect spin currents. Our ab initio calculations reveal a large spin Hall conductivity in the TaAs family of Weyl materials. Considering the low charge conductivity of semimetals, Weyl semimetals are believed to present a larger spin Hall angle (the ratio of the spin Hall conductivity over the charge conductivity) than that of conventional spin Hall systems such as the 4d and 5d transition metals. The spin Hall effect originates intrinsically from the bulk band structure of Weyl semimetals, which exhibit a large Berry curvature and spin-orbit coupling, so the bulk carrier problem in the topological insulators is naturally avoided. Our work not only paves the way for employing Weyl semimetals in spintronics, but also proposes a new guideline for searching for the spin Hall effect in various topological materials.