Quantum Spin Mixing in Dirac Materials
The spin of the electron is nowadays replacing the charge as basic carrier of information not only in spintronics applications, but also in the emerging field of quantum information. Topological quantum materials, where spin-momentum locking is believed to lead to particularly long spin lifetimes, are regarded as a promising platform for such applications. However, spin-orbit coupling, that is essential to all topological matter, at the same time gives rise to spin mixing and decoherence as a major obstacle for quantum computing. Here, we give experimental evidence that hot-spots of spin-mixing and spin-conserving contributions of the spin-orbit operator coexist in an archetypal topological Dirac metal, and that these hot spots can have a strongly anisotropic distribution of their respective wave vectors with respect to the spin quantization direction. Our results can be understood within a theory that takes into account the decomposition of the spin-orbit Hamiltonian into spin-conserving and spin-flip terms, contributing to a better understanding of quantum decoherence in topological materials, in general.