skip to main content

Title: Phase-induced topological superconductivity in a planar heterostructure

Topological superconductivity in quasi-one-dimensional systems is a novel phase of matter with possible implications for quantum computation. Despite years of effort, a definitive signature of this phase in experiments is still debated. A major cause of this ambiguity is the side effects of applying a magnetic field: induced in-gap states, vortices, and alignment issues. Here we propose a planar semiconductor–superconductor heterostructure as a platform for realizing topological superconductivity without applying a magnetic field to the two-dimensional electron gas hosting the topological state. Time-reversal symmetry is broken only by phase biasing the proximitizing superconductors, which can be achieved using extremely small fluxes or bias currents far from the quasi-one-dimensional channel. Our platform is based on interference between this phase biasing and the phase arising from strong spin–orbit coupling in closed electron trajectories. The principle is demonstrated analytically using a simple model, and then shown numerically for realistic devices. We show a robust topological phase diagram, as well as explicit wavefunctions of Majorana zero modes. We discuss experimental issues regarding the practical implementation of our proposal, establishing it as an accessible scheme with contemporary experimental techniques.

Authors:
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1708688
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10253578
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume:
118
Issue:
27
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Article No. e2107377118
ISSN:
0027-8424
Publisher:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Novel many-body and topological electronic phases can be created in assemblies of interacting spins coupled to a superconductor, such as one-dimensional topological superconductors with Majorana zero modes (MZMs) at their ends. Understanding and controlling interactions between spins and the emergent band structure of the in-gap Yu–Shiba–Rusinov (YSR) states they induce in a superconductor are fundamental for engineering such phases. Here, by precisely positioning magnetic adatoms with a scanning tunneling microscope (STM), we demonstrate both the tunability of exchange interaction between spins and precise control of the hybridization of YSR states they induce on the surface of a bismuth (Bi) thin film that is made superconducting with the proximity effect. In this platform, depending on the separation of spins, the interplay among Ruderman–Kittel–Kasuya–Yosida (RKKY) interaction, spin–orbit coupling, and surface magnetic anisotropy stabilizes different types of spin alignments. Using high-resolution STM spectroscopy at millikelvin temperatures, we probe these spin alignments through monitoring the spin-induced YSR states and their energy splitting. Such measurements also reveal a quantum phase transition between the ground states with different electron number parity for a pair of spins in a superconductor tuned by their separation. Experiments on larger assemblies show that spin–spin interactions can be mediated in amore »superconductor over long distances. Our results show that controlling hybridization of the YSR states in this platform provides the possibility of engineering the band structure of such states for creating topological phases.

    « less
  2. The controlled tunability of superconductivity in low-dimensional materials may enable new quantum devices. Particularly in triplet or topological superconductors, tunneling devices such as Josephson junctions, etc., can demonstrate exotic functionalities. The tunnel barrier, an insulating or normal material layer separating two superconductors, is a key component for the junctions. Thin layers of NbSe2 have been shown as a superconductor with strong spin orbit coupling, which can give rise to topological superconductivity if driven by a large magnetic exchange field. Here we demonstrate the superconductor−insulator transitions in epitaxially grown few-layer NbSe2 with wafer-scale uniformity on insulating substrates. We provide the electrical transport, Raman spectroscopy, cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction characterizations of the insulating phase. We show that the superconductor−insulator transition is driven by strain, which also causes characteristic energy shifts of the Raman modes. Our observation paves the way for high-quality heterojunction tunnel barriers to be seamlessly built into epitaxial NbSe2 itself, thereby enabling highly scalable tunneling devices for superconductor-based quantum electronics.
  3. Abstract

    Atomic many-body phase transitions and quantum criticality have recently attracted much attention in non-standard optical lattices. Here we perform an experimental study of finite temperature superfluid transition of bosonic atoms confined in a three dimensional triangular lattice, whose structure can be continuously deformed to dimensional crossover regions including quasi-one and two dimensions. This non-standard lattice system provides a versatile platform to investigate many-body correlated phases. For the three dimensional case, we find that the finite temperature superfluid transition agrees quantitatively with the Gutzwiller mean field theory prediction, whereas tuning towards reduced dimensional cases, both quantum and thermal fluctuation effects are more dramatic, and the experimental measurement for the critical point becomes strongly deviated from the mean field theory. We characterize the fluctuation effects in the whole dimension crossover process. Our experimental results imply strong many-body correlations in the system beyond mean field description, paving a way to study quantum criticality near Mott-superfluid transition in finite temperature dimension-crossover lattices.

  4. Hybrid semiconductor-superconductor nanowires have emerged as a promising platform for realizing topological superconductivity (TSC). Here, we present a route to TSC using magnetic flux applied to a full superconducting shell surrounding a semiconducting nanowire core. Tunneling into the core reveals a hard induced gap near zero applied flux, corresponding to zero phase winding, and a gapped region with a discrete zero-energy state around one applied flux quantum, corresponding to 2π phase winding. Theoretical analysis indicates that the winding of the superconducting phase can induce a transition to a topological phase supporting Majorana zero modes. Measured Coulomb blockade peak spacing around one flux quantum shows a length dependence that is consistent with the existence of Majorana modes at the ends of the nanowire.

  5. The strong Ising spin–orbit coupling in certain two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides can profoundly affect the superconducting state in few-layer samples. For example, in NbSe2, this effect combines with the reduced dimensionality to stabilize the superconducting state against magnetic fields up to ~35 T, and could lead to topological superconductivity. Here we report a two-fold rotational symmetry of the superconducting state in few-layer NbSe2 under in-plane external magnetic fields, in contrast to the three-fold symmetry of the lattice. Both the magnetoresistance and critical field exhibit this two-fold symmetry, and it also manifests deep inside the superconducting state in NbSe2/CrBr3 superconductor-magnet tunnel junctions. In both cases, the anisotropy vanishes in the normal state, demonstrating that it is an intrinsic property of the superconducting phase. We attribute the behaviour to the mixing between two closely competing pairing instabilities, namely the conventional s-wave instability typical of bulk NbSe2 and an unconventional d- or p-wave channel that emerges in few-layer NbSe2. Our results demonstrate the unconventional character of the pairing interaction in few-layer transition metal dichalcogenides and highlight the exotic superconductivity in this family of two-dimensional materials.