Imaging Chern mosaic and Berry-curvature magnetism in magic-angle graphene

  Matan Bocarsly  ,  Sameer Grover  ,  Aviram Uri  
Weizmann Institute

Charge carriers in magic angle graphene come in eight flavors described by a combination of their spin, valley, and sublattice polarizations [1–4]. When the inversion and time reversal symmetries are broken by the substrate or by strong interactions, the degeneracy of the flavors can be lifted and their corresponding bands can be filled sequentially [5–7]. Due to their non-trivial band topology and Berry curvature, each of the bands is classified by a topological Chern number [8–12], leading to the quantum anomalous Hall [13–15] and Chern insulator states [7,8,16–19] at integer fillings  of the bands. It has been recently predicted, however, that depending on the local atomic-scale arrangements of the graphene and the encapsulating hBN lattices, rather than being a global topological invariant, the Chern number  may become position dependent, altering transport and magnetic properties of the itinerant electrons [20–22]. Using scanning superconducting quantum interference device on a tip (SQUID-on-tip) [23], we directly image the nanoscale Berry-curvature-induced equilibrium orbital magnetism, the polarity of which is governed by the local Chern number, and detect its two constituent components associated with the drift and the self-rotation of the electronic wave packets [24]. At , we observe local zero-field valley-polarized Chern insulators forming a mosaic of microscopic patches of 1, 0, or 1, governed by the local sublattice polarization, consistent with predictions [20–22]. Upon further filling, we find a first-order phase transition due to recondensation of electrons from valley  to , which leads to irreversible flips of the local Chern number and the magnetization, and to the formation of valley domain walls giving rise to hysteretic global anomalous Hall resistance. The findings shed new light on the structure and dynamics of topological phases and call for exploration of the controllable formation of flavor domain walls and their utilization in twistronic devices.