Atomic-scale strain manipulation of a charge density wave

A charge density wave (CDW) is one of the fundamental instabilities of the Fermi surface occurring in a wide range of quantum materials. In dimensions higher than one, where Fermi surface nesting can play only a limited role, the selection of the particular wavevector and geometry of an emerging CDW should in principle be susceptible to controllable manipulation. In this work, we implement a simple method for straining materials compatible with low-temperature scanning tunneling microscopy/spectros- copy (STM/S), and use it to strain-engineer CDWs in 2H-NbSe2. Our STM/S measurements, combined with theory, reveal how small strain-induced changes in the electronic band structure and phonon dispersion lead to dramatic changes in the CDW ordering wavevector and geometry. Our work unveils the microscopic mechanism of a CDW formation in this system, and can serve as a general tool compatible with a range of spectroscopic techniques to engineer electronic states in any material where local strain or lattice symmetry breaking plays a role.

PNAS June 18, 2018. 201718931