Abstract:
Recent measurements have shown that a continuously tunable bandgap of up to 250 meV can be generated in biased bilayer graphene [Y. Zhang et al., Nature 459, 820 (2009)], opening up pathway for possible graphene-based nanoelectronic and nanophotonic devices operating at room temperature. Here, we show that the optical response of this system is dominated by bound excitons. The main feature of the optical absorbance spectrum is determined by a single symmetric peak arising from excitons, a profile that is markedly different from that of an interband transition picture. Under laboratory conditions, the binding energy of the excitons may be tuned with the external bias going from zero to several tens of meV's. These novel strong excitonic behaviors result from a peculiar, effective ``one-dimensional'' joint density of states and a continuously-tunable bandgap in biased bilayer graphene. Moreover, we show that the electronic structure (level degeneracy, optical selection rules, etc.) of the bound excitons in a biased bilayer graphene is markedly different from that of a two-dimensional hydrogen atom because of the pseudospin physics.

Abstract:
Analysis of the electronic structure of an ordinary two-dimensional electron gas (2DEG) under an appropriate external periodic potential of hexagonal symmetry reveals that massless Dirac fermions are generated near the corners of the supercell Brillouin zone. The required potential parameters are found to be achievable under or close to laboratory conditions. Moreover, the group velocity is tunable by changing either the effective mass of the 2DEG or the lattice parameter of the external potential, and it is insensitive to the potential amplitude. The finding should provide a new class of systems other than graphene for investigating and exploiting massless Dirac fermions using 2DEGs in semiconductors.

Abstract:
A first-principles investigation of the electronic properties of boron nitride nanoribbons (BNNRs) having either armchair or zigzag shaped edges passivated by hydrogen with widths up to 10 nm is presented. Band gaps of armchair BNNRs exhibit family-dependent oscillations as the width increases and, for ribbons wider than 3 nm, converge to a constant value that is 0.02 eV smaller than the bulk band gap of a boron nitride sheet owing to the existence of very weak edge states. The band gap of zigzag BNNRs monotonically decreases and converges to a gap that is 0.7 eV smaller than the bulk gap due to the presence of strong edge states. When a transverse electric field is applied, the band gaps of armchair BNNRs decrease monotonically with the field strength. For the zigzag BNNRs, however, the band gaps and the carrier effective masses either increase or decrease depending on the direction and the strength of the field.

Abstract:
Ever since the novel quantum Hall effect in bilayer graphene was discovered, and explained by a Berry phase of 2pi [K. S. Novoselov et al., "Unconventional quantum Hall effect and Berry's phase of 2pi in bilayer graphene", Nature Phys. 2, 177 (2006)], it has been widely accepted that the low-energy electronic wavefunction in this system is described by a non-trivial Berry phase of 2pi, different from the zero phase of a conventional two-dimensional electron gas. Here, we show that (i) the relevant Berry phase for bilayer graphene is not different from that for a conventional two-dimensional electron gas (as expected, given that Berry phase is only meaningful modulo 2pi) and that (ii) what is actually observed in the quantum Hall measurements is not the absolute value of the Berry phase but the pseudospin winding number.

Abstract:
We show that the degree of spin polarization of photoelectrons from the surface states of topological insulators is 100% if fully-polarized light is used as in typical photoemission measurements, and hence can be significantly "higher" than that of the initial state. Further, the spin orientation of these photoelectrons in general can also be very different from that of the initial surface state and is controlled by the photon polarization; a rich set of predicted phenomena have recently been confirmed by spin- and angle-resolved photoemission experiments.

Abstract:
We show that the low-energy electronic structure of graphene under a one-dimensional inhomogeneous magnetic field can be mapped into that of graphene under an electric field or vice versa. As a direct application of this transformation, we find that the carrier velocity in graphene is isotropically reduced under magnetic fields periodic along one direction with zero average flux. This counterintuitive renormalization has its origin in the pseudospin nature of graphene electronic states and is robust against disorder. In magnetic graphene superlattices with a finite average flux, the Landau level bandwidth at high fields exhibits an unconventional behavior of decreasing with increasing strength of the average magnetic field due to the linear energy dispersion of graphene. As another application of our transformation relation, we show that the transmission probabilities of an electron through a magnetic barrier in graphene can directly be obtained from those through an electrostatic barrier or vice versa.

Abstract:
We report first-principles calculations of the effects of quasiparticle self-energy and electron-hole interaction on the optical properties of single-walled BN nanotubes. Excitonic effects are shown to be even more important in BN nanotubes than in carbon nanotubes. Electron-hole interactions give rise to complexes of bright (and dark) excitons, which qualitatively alter the optical response. Excitons with binding energy larger than 2 eV are found in the (8,0) BN nanotubes. Moreover, unlike the carbon nanotubes, theory predicts that these exciton states are comprised of coherent supposition of transitions from several different subband pairs, giving rise to novel behaviors.

Abstract:
We discuss the novel electronic properties of graphene under an external periodic scalar or vector potential, and the analytical and numerical methods used to investigate them. When graphene is subjected to a one-dimensional periodic scalar potential, owing to the linear dispersion and the chiral (pseudospin) nature of the electronic states, the group velocity of its carriers is renormalized highly anisotropically in such a manner that the velocity is invariant along the periodic direction but is reduced the most along the perpendicular direction. Under a periodic scalar potential, new massless Dirac fermions are generated at the supercell Brillouin zone boundaries. Also, we show that if the strength of the applied scalar potential is sufficiently strong, new zero-energy modes may be generated. With the periodic scalar potential satisfying some special conditions, the energy dispersion near the Dirac point becomes quasi one-dimensional. On the other hand, for graphene under a one-dimensional periodic vector potential (resulting in a periodic magnetic field perpendicular to the graphene plane), the group velocity is reduced isotropically and monotonically with the strength of the potential.

Abstract:
The ab initio $GW$ method is considered as the most accurate approach for calculating the band gaps of semiconductors and insulators. Yet its application to transition metal oxides (TMOs) has been hindered by the failure of traditional approximations developed for conventional semiconductors. In this work, we examine the effects of these approximations on the values of band gaps for ZnO, Cu$_2$O, and TiO$_2$. In particular, we explore the origin of the differences between the two widely used plasmon-pole models. Based on the comparison of our results with the experimental data and previously published calculations, we discuss which approximations are suitable for TMOs and why.

Abstract:
Electron supercollimation, in which a wavepacket is guided to move undistorted along a selected direction, is a highly desirable property that has yet been realized experimentally. Disorder in general is expected to inhibit supercollimation. Here, we report a counter-intuitive phenomenon of electron supercollimation by disorder in graphene and related Dirac fermion materials. We show that one can use one-dimensional disorder potentials to control electron wavepacket transport. This is distinct from known systems where an electron wavepacket would be further spread by disorder and hindered in the potential fluctuating direction. The predicted phenomenon has significant implications in the understanding and applications of electron transport in Dirac fermion materials.