Physical Review B

Low-temperature saturation of phase coherence length in topological insulators

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Implementing topological insulators as elementary units in quantum technologies requires a comprehensive understanding of the dephasing mechanisms governing the surface carriers in these materials, which impose a practical limit to the applicability of these materials in such technologies requiring phase coherent transport. To investigate this, we have performed magnetoresistance (MR) and conductance fluctuations (CF) measurements in both exfoliated and molecular beam epitaxy grown samples. The phase breaking length (lφ) obtained from MR shows a saturation below sample dependent characteristic temperatures, consistent with that obtained from CF measurements. We have systematically eliminated several factors that may lead to such behavior of lφ in the context of TIs, such as finite size effect, thermalization, spin-orbit coupling length, spin-flip scattering, and surface-bulk coupling. Our work indicates the need to identify an alternative source of dephasing that dominates at low T in topological insulators, causing saturation in the phase breaking length and time.