Applied Physics Letters

Preparation of layered thin film samples for angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy

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Materials with layered van der Waals crystal structures are exciting research topics in condensed matter physics and materials science due to outstanding physical properties associated with their strong two dimensional nature. Prominent examples include bismuth tritelluride and triselenide topological insulators (TIs), which are characterized by a bulk bandgap and pairwise counter-propagating spin-polarized electronic surface states. Angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) of ex-situ grown thin film samples has been limited by the lack of suitable surface preparation techniques. We demonstrate the shortcomings of previously successful conventional surface preparation techniques when applied to ternary TI systems which are susceptible to severe oxidation. We show that in-situ cleaving is a simple and effective technique for preparation of clean surfaces on ex-situ grown thin films for high quality ARPES measurements. The method presented here is universally applicable to other layered van der Waals systems as well.