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Authors: Irfan , Anton Akhmerov, Bas Nijholt, Tomas Rosdahl, Jay Sau, Bernard van Heck
Compute Environment: Ubuntu 18.04 (Deprecated)
In [1]:
import sys sys.path.append('../code') from init_mooc_nb import * import cons_leads init_notebook() dims = SimpleNamespace(G=holoviews.Dimension(r'$G/G_0$'), V_bias=holoviews.Dimension('$V_{bias}$'), phi=holoviews.Dimension(r'$\Phi/\Phi_0$')) def make_system_spectroscopy(): # We apply a magnetic field in all parts of the system def onsite_sc(site, p): return (2 * p.t - p.mu_sc) * pauli.s0sz + p.Ez * pauli.sxs0 + * pauli.s0sx def onsite_normal(site, p): return (2 * p.t - p.mu_l) * pauli.s0sz + p.Ez * pauli.sxs0 def onsite_barrier(site, p): return (2 * p.t - p.mu_l + p.Vbarrier) * pauli.s0sz + p.Ez * pauli.sxs0 # The hopping is the same in all subsystems. There is normal hopping and # spin orbit interaction. def hop(site1, site2, p): return -p.t * pauli.s0sz + 1j * p.alpha * pauli.sysz lat = kwant.lattice.chain() sys = kwant.Builder() # The first subsystem just consists of the tunnel barrier (one site with a # potential) sys[lat(0)] = onsite_barrier # The second subsystem is a normal lead # The translational symmetry makes it semi-infinite. lead1 = kwant.Builder(kwant.TranslationalSymmetry(*lat.prim_vecs)) # Define a unit cell (in this case the unit cell consists of a single site) lead1[lat(0)] = onsite_normal # Define the hopping between unitcells lead1[lat(1), lat(0)] = hop # The third subsystem is a superconducting lead. A Majorana bound state # can arise at the edge of this system. lead2 = kwant.Builder(kwant.TranslationalSymmetry(*lat.prim_vecs)) # Again: Define a unit cell lead2[lat(0)] = onsite_sc # Again define hopping between unit cells lead2[lat(1), lat(0)] = hop # Create a connection between the first subsystem (the tunnel barrier, system name: sys) # and the other two subsystems (the normal and the superconducting lead) sys.attach_lead(lead1) sys.attach_lead(lead2) sys = sys.finalized() # Here, we make the scattering states of the leads purely electron or holes. # This is necessary to calculate the Andreev conductance. # Projectors - P_1 projects out the electron part, and P_2 # the hole part of the Hamiltonian. P_1 = np.array([[1, 0], [0, 0], [0, 1], [0, 0]]) P_2 = np.array([[0, 0], [1, 0], [0, 0], [0, 1]]) projector_list = [P_1, P_2] sys.leads[0] = cons_leads.ConservationInfiniteSystem( sys.leads[0], projector_list) return sys def nanowire_chain(L=None, periodic=False): lat = kwant.lattice.chain() if L is None: sys = kwant.Builder(kwant.TranslationalSymmetry(*lat.prim_vecs)) L = 1 else: sys = kwant.Builder() def onsite(onsite, p): return (2 * p.t - * pauli.szs0 + p.B * pauli.s0sz + * pauli.sxs0 for x in range(L): sys[lat(x)] = onsite def hop(site1, site2, p): return -p.t * pauli.szs0 - .5j * p.alpha * pauli.szsx def hopping_with_flux(site1, site2, p): phase = np.exp(1j * p.flux / 2) phase_factors = np.kron(np.diag([phase, phase.conj()]), pauli.s0) return 0.7 *, site1, p)) sys[kwant.HoppingKind((1,), lat)] = hop if periodic: sys[lat(0), lat(L - 1)] = hopping_with_flux return sys def tunnel_spectroscopy(sys, p, Es): def Andreev_cond(E): sm = cons_leads.SymmetricSMatrix( kwant.smatrix(sys, energy=E, args=[p])) # (i, j) means we call for block j of lead i in the scattering matrix. # The normal lead is i = 0 here, where block j = 0 corresponds to electrons # and block j = 1 holes. return (sm.submatrix((0, 0), (0, 0)).shape[0] - sm.transmission((0, 0), (0, 0)) + sm.transmission((0, 1), (0, 0))) Gs = [Andreev_cond(E) for E in Es] return np.array(Gs) def plot_spectroscopy(Vbarrier): sys = make_system_spectroscopy() Es = np.linspace(-0.15, 0.15, 101) p = SimpleNamespace(t=1, mu_l=0.5, mu_sc=0, alpha=0.15, delta=0.1, Vbarrier=Vbarrier) # Trivial, because the magnetic field is zero (third argument) p.Ez = 0 Gs_trivial = tunnel_spectroscopy(sys, p, Es) # Non-trivial p.Ez = 0.25 Gs_topological = tunnel_spectroscopy(sys, p, Es) kdims = [dims.V_bias, dims.G] plot = holoviews.Path((Es, Gs_trivial), kdims=kdims, label='trivial')(style={'color': 'k'}) plot *= holoviews.Path((Es, Gs_topological), kdims=kdims, label='topological')(style={'color': 'r'}) style_overlay = {'xticks': [-0.1, 0.0, 0.1], 'yticks': [0.0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0], 'show_legend':True, 'legend_position': 'top', 'fig_size':150} style_path = {'show_legend':True} return plot(plot={'Overlay': style_overlay, 'Path': style_path}) def nanowire_spectrum(trivial=False): B = 0.2 if trivial else 1.0 p = SimpleNamespace(mu=0.4, t=1.0, alpha=0.2, delta=0.1, B=B) sys = nanowire_chain(L=100, periodic=True).finalized() def energy(flux): p.flux = flux H = sys.hamiltonian_submatrix(args=[p]) return np.linalg.eigvalsh(H) fluxes = np.linspace(0, 4 * np.pi, 51) spectrum = np.array([energy(flux) for flux in fluxes]) # Find the two subgap states. if not trivial: N = spectrum.shape[1] // 2 non_trivial = np.where((fluxes > np.pi) & (fluxes < 3 * np.pi)) spectrum[non_trivial, N - 1: N + 1] = spectrum[non_trivial, N: N - 2: -1].copy() return fluxes, spectrum def plot_spectrum_nanowire(fluxes, spectrum, ylim=[-0.2, 0.2]): N = spectrum.shape[1] // 2 kdims = [dims.phi, '$E$'] plot = holoviews.Path((fluxes, spectrum), kdims=kdims)(style={'color': 'k', 'alpha': 0.4}) plot *= holoviews.Path((fluxes, spectrum[:, N - 1]), kdims=kdims)(style={'color': 'r'}) plot *= holoviews.Path((fluxes, spectrum[:, N]), kdims=kdims)(style={'color': 'k'}) ticks = {'xticks': [(0, '0'), (2 * np.pi, '1'), (4 * np.pi, '2')]} return plot[:, -0.11:0.11](plot=ticks) def plot_gse_sc_nanowire(fluxes, spectrum): N = spectrum.shape[1] // 2 energy_gs = np.sum(spectrum[:, :N], axis=1) energy_gs -= np.max(energy_gs) current = np.diff(energy_gs) * len(energy_gs) xdim = dims.phi ydim = r'$E_{tot}(\Phi)$' ticks = {'xticks': [(0, '0'), (2 * np.pi, '1'), (4 * np.pi, '2')]} plot = holoviews.Path((fluxes, energy_gs), kdims=[ xdim, ydim], label='Energy')(plot=ticks) ydim = r'$I(\Phi)$' plot += holoviews.Path(((fluxes[1:] + fluxes[:-1]) / 2, current), kdims=[xdim, ydim], label='Current')(plot=ticks) return plot
Populated the namespace with: np, matplotlib, kwant, holoviews, init_notebook, interact, display_html, plt, pf, SimpleNamespace, pprint_matrix, scientific_number, pretty_fmt_complex from code/edx_components: MoocVideo, PreprintReference, MoocDiscussion, MoocCheckboxesAssessment, MoocMultipleChoiceAssessment, MoocPeerAssessment, MoocSelfAssessment from code/functions: spectrum, hamiltonian_array, h_k, pauli
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Applying the nanowire model to obtain various Majorana signatures

  • Majorana tunneling leads to zero bias conductance peak
  • Conductance into Majorana nanowire edge is quantized
  • Josephson effect in a topological nanowire Josephson junction is anomalously 4π\pi periodic


How to detect Majoranas

Our second guest lecturer for this week is Carlo Beenakker, from Leiden University.

In [2]:
MoocVideo("WAhNblNbadA", src_location="2.2-intro")

Andreev reflection

To understand how conductance through a Majorana works, we first have to learn how charge is transferred from a metallic lead to a superconductor. In general this transfer takes place via a mechanism known as Andreev reflection. Before we discuss the conductance signatures of a Majorana zero mode, it is useful to learn what Andreev reflection is.

Let's consider the following very simple circuit with two electrodes:

One electrode is a normal metal, the other a superconductor, and they are kept at a voltage difference VV. At the interface between the normal metal and the superconductor (in short, NS interface) there is a barrier. We are particularly interested in the case when the voltage difference is very small compared to the energy gap in the superconductor, eV<ΔeV < \Delta, where ee is the charge of the electron.

What happens when electrons arrive at the interface with superconductor? The superconductor has no states available up to an energy Δ\Delta around the Fermi level, and the voltage is not enough to provide for this energy difference. How can a current develop?

To understand this, let's look more closely at an electron arriving at the interface with the superconductor. There are two possible processes that can take place, normal reflection and Andreev reflection. In normal reflection, the electron is simply reflected at the interface with the superconductor:

With normal reflection, there is no net charge transfer from the left electrode to the right electrode. Hence this process does not contribute any net current. Normal reflection obviously doesn't even require a superconductor and would take place also if the right electrode was normal.

Andreev reflection, instead, is unique to the NS interface. In Andreev reflection, an electron is converted to a hole by the superconductor, and a Cooper pair is created in the superconductor.

You can see that a net charge of 2e2e is transferred from the left to the right electrode, and at low voltages Andreev reflection is the only process responsible for the electrical current.

Above the superconducting gap, eV>ΔeV > \Delta transmission of an incident electron into the superconductor also contributes to the current.

You can also think of Andreev reflection as a transmission problem. Because of the presence of the superconductor, both electrons and holes participate in the transfer of charge in the normal metal lead. Conceptually, you can imagine to separate the left lead into two leads, one only carrying electrons and one only carrying holes. These two leads are connected by the superconductor, which converts incoming electrons in the first lead into outgoing holes in the second lead, and viceversa:

With this picture, you can understand that Andreev reflection is very similar to the problem of transmission through a double barrier.

Let's call rehr_{eh} the amplitude for Andreev reflection. Its absolute value squared, reh2\left|r_{eh}\right|^2, is the probability that an incoming electron from the normal metal is Andreev reflected as a hole. Once we know rehr_{eh}, we can compute the conductance G(V)G(V), which relates the current II that develops as a response to a small voltage VV, G(V)=dI/dVG(V) = dI/dV. The conductance is given by the following formula:


We will not derive this equation, since it can be understood intuitively. The conductance is proportional to the probability reh2|r_{eh}|^2 of Andreev reflection, since we know that at low voltages this is the only process that transfers electric charge from the left to the right electrode.

The factor of 22 is due to each Andreev reflection transferring a charge of a Cooper pair, 2e2e. Finally, G0=e2/hG_0=e^2/h is the conductance quantum, the fundamental proportionality constant which relates currents to voltages.

Andreev reflection off a Majorana zero mode

Now that we understand a conventional NS interface, let's see what happens if our superconductor is topological:

You can imagine that the superconducting electrode is now a nanowire in the topological phase, like the one you have just studied. Because the superconductor is topological, there is a Majorana mode at the NS interface, whose wave function will “leak” a bit into the normal metal, through the barrier. Of course, there will be also a second Majorana mode, but we place it far enough from the NS interface, so that it does not have a role in the transport. Does the Majorana zero mode at the interface change the Andreev reflection properties?

Yes, and in a rather drastic way. Going back to the picture of Andreev reflection as a transmission process through a double barrier, the crucial difference is that the Majorana mode now appears as a bound state between the two barriers:

In the double barrier problem in quantum mechanics, you can have resonant transmission in the presence of a bound state. This means that the probability reh2\left|r_{eh}\right|^2 to pass through the barriers is dramatically enhanced if the energy of the incident electron matches the energy of the bound state. In our case, the energy of the incident electron is VV, and the energy of the bound state, the Majorana mode, is zero. So the presence of the Majorana mode leads to a resonant peak in the conductance of the NS interface at V=0V=0.

Quantization of the Majorana resonance

Seeing the resonant peak is the most direct way we know to measure the presence of a Majorana zero mode.

However, the presence of a resonance associated with Majorana modes is not uniquely topological, because tunneling into any low energy bound state produces resonance.

Is there anything in particular which distinguishes the Majorana resonance from any other resonance?

Let's just look at what happens if we compare conductance of an NS interface in the cases when S is trivial and non-trivial, and see how the conductance changes as we alter the tunnel barrier strength.

In [3]:
holoviews.HoloMap({V: plot_spectroscopy(V) for V in np.arange(1, 4.25, 0.25)}, kdims=[r'$V_{barrier}$'])

We see a very robust and persistent characteristic: the peak height of the Majorana resonance is quantized to the value of 2G02G_0, independent of the strength of the voltage barrier. From the formula above, this means that if a Majorana is present we have reh2=1\left|r_{eh}\right|^2=1, that is we have perfect Andreev reflection.

To understand why it is robust, we need to go beyond drawing cartoon figures.

Reflection matrix of a normal metal-superconductor interface

Quantum-mechanically, we can describe transport through the NS interface as a scattering problem. An incoming wave function Ψin\Psi_\textrm{in} propagates in the left electrode, until it is reflected back at the interface with the superconductor, turning into an outgoing wave function Ψout\Psi_\textrm{out}. Because of the presence of the superconductor, both the incoming and outgoing states can be electrons Ψe\Psi_e or holes Ψh\Psi_h. At zero energy, they are related to each other by particle-hole symmetry:

Ψe(E)=PΨh(E)\Psi_e(E) = \mathcal{P}\,\Psi_h(-E)\,

The reflection enforces a linear relation between incoming and ingoing waves:

Ψout=r(V)Ψin\Psi_\textrm{out} = r(V) \,\Psi_\textrm{in}\,


The matrix rr is known as the reflection matrix. Its complex elements are the amplitudes of normal and Andreev reflection of an incoming electron - reer_{ee} and rehr_{eh} - and normal and Andreev reflection of an incoming hole - rhhr_{hh} and rher_{he}. (For brevity we don't write out explicitly that each of those depends on VV.)

If there is more than one incoming electron state (in our case there are two due to spin), all 4 elements of rr become matrices themselves. They then describe scattering between all the possible incoming and outgoing states.

Because for eVΔeV\ll \Delta there are no propagating waves in the superconductor, the reflection process which relates Ψout\Psi_\textrm{out} and Ψin\Psi_\textrm{in} is unitary, rr=1r^\dagger r=1. This implies that

ree2+reh2=rhe2+rhh2=1.\left|r_{ee}\right|^2+\left|r_{eh}\right|^2 = \left|r_{he}\right|^2+\left|r_{hh}\right|^2 = 1\,.

This is the mathematical way of saying that an electron (or hole) arriving at the interface has no alternatives other than being normal-reflected or Andreev-reflected.

Can we add any other constraint to rr, that might help to distinguish any characteristic of the Majorana mode? Just like we did last week, let's try to study rr using symmetry and topology. Our circuit involves a superconductor, so we must have particle-hole symmetry in the problem.

In order to derive rr explicitly we could start directly from the Bogoliubov-de Gennes Hamiltonian of the NS system, and solve it for an energy VV. This is a lot of work, which we won't do, but knowing this fact we can understand the consequences of particle-hole symmetry for rr.

First, particle-hole symmetry exchanges electrons and hole components of the wave function, so it involves a Pauli matrix τx\tau_x acting on Ψin\Psi_\textrm{in} or Ψout\Psi_\textrm{out}. Second, it is an anti-unitary symmetry, so it involves complex conjugation. Third, it changes the sign of the energy so it sends VV into V-V. Hence we arrive at the following symmetry for the reflection matrix:

τxr(V)τx=r(V).\tau_x r^*(-V) \tau_x = r(V)\,.

Together with unitarity, particle-hole symmetry imposes that the conductance is symmetric around zero voltage, G(V)=G(V)G(V)=G(-V). In the most interesting point, V=0V=0 we have:

τxr0τx=r0. \tau_x r^*_0 \tau_x = r_0 \,.

where we defined r0r(V=0)r_0\equiv r(V=0). So much for the impact of symmetry on rr. What about topology?

Topological invariant of the reflection matrix

The Majorana zero mode is the consequence of a topological phase in the topological superconductor, and its presence is dictated by the bulk-boundary correspondence. Can we find any consequence of this fact in r0r_0? It turns out that reflection matrices rr with particle-hole symmetry are also topological in their own way. Their topological invariant is

Q=detr0.Q = \det\,r_0\,.

Again, we will not derive this equation, but rather convince ourselves this expression is correct.

First of all, the determinant of a unitary matrix such as r0r_0 is always a complex number with unit norm, so detr0=1\left|\det\,r_0\,\right|=1. Second, because of particle-hole symmetry, the determinant is real: detr0=det(τxr0τx)=detr0=(detr0)\det r_0 = \det\, (\tau_x r^*_0\,\tau_x) = \det\,r_0^*\,=(\det\,r_0)^*. Hence, detr0=±1\det\,r_0\,= \pm 1. This is quite promising! Two possible discrete values, just like the Pfaffian invariant of the Kitaev chain.

Because it is just dictated by unitarity and particle-hole symmetry, the determinant of r0r_0 cannot change from +1+1 to 1-1 under a change of the properties of the NS interface. For instance, you can vary the height of the potential barrier at the interface, but this cannot affect the determinant of r0r_0.

The only way to make the determinant change sign is to close the bulk gap in the superconducting electrode. If the gap goes to zero, then it is not true that an incoming electron coming from the normal metal can only be normal-reflected or Andreev-reflected. It can also just enter the superconducting electrode as an electron. Hence the reflection matrix no longer contains all the possible processes taking place at the interface, and it won't be unitary anymore. This allows the determinant to change sign. We conclude that Q=detrQ=\det\,r is a good topological invariant.

Explicitly, we have that

Q=ree2reh2±1.Q=|r_{ee}|^2-|r_{eh}|^2\equiv\pm 1\,.

We already saw that unitarity requires that ree2+reh2=1|r_{ee}|^2+|r_{eh}|^2=1. There are only two possibilities for both conditions to be true: either ree=1|r_{ee}|=1 (perfect normal reflection) or reh=1|r_{eh}|=1 (perfect Andreev reflection). The situation cannot change without a phase transition. Thus the quantized conductance of the Majorana mode is topologically robust in this case, and in fact survives past the tunneling limit.

In [4]:
question = ("Imagine we replace the superconducting electrode with an insulating material, " "and imagine that at the interface with the normal metal there is a bound state. " "How is the current through the interface different with respect " "to that through an NS interface with a Majorana?") answers = ["It is not quantized but still non-zero.", "It is zero because there cannot be Andreev reflection without a superconductor.", "It is not symmetric in voltage but it is still non-zero.", "It has a resonance peak whose width is independent of the barrier strength."] explanation = ("A current requires an exit path for the charge. " "No current can flow through the insulator, since there are no excitations at the Fermi level in an insulator. " "A superconductor is also gapped with respect to excitations, but is different than a normal insulator. " "It has a condensate of Cooper pairs, so a current can develop thanks to Andreev reflection at the interface.") MoocMultipleChoiceAssessment(question, answers, correct_answer=1, explanation=explanation)

Imagine we replace the superconducting electrode with an insulating material, and imagine that at the interface with the normal metal there is a bound state. How is the current through the interface different with respect to that through an NS interface with a Majorana?

It is not quantized but still non-zero.
It is zero because there cannot be Andreev reflection without a superconductor.
It is not symmetric in voltage but it is still non-zero.
It has a resonance peak whose width is independent of the barrier strength.

Flux-induced fermion parity switch in topological superconductors

How do we probe the Pfaffian topological invariant of a topological superconductor directly? Last week, we introduced a thought-experiment where we probed the bulk-edge correspondence of Majorana modes by changing the sign of the hopping across a bond. The non-trivial value of the topological invariant results in a fermion parity switch as a result of the change in sign of the hopping tt across the junction i.e.

tt.t\rightarrow -t.

It turns out that the sign change in the hopping across the junction might also be obtained by introducing a magnetic flux through the superconducting ring (similar to the Aharonov-Bohm effect). The role of the special bond is now played by a Josephson junction, which is just an insulating barrier interrupting the ring, as in the following sketch:

How does the magnetic flux enter the Hamiltonian? By following the usual argument for introducing magnetic fields into lattice Hamiltonians using Peierls substitution, the flux Φ\Phi can be accounted for simply by changing the phase of the hopping across the junction in the ring:

ttexp(iϕ/2).t\,\to\,t\,\exp (i\phi/2).

Here, ϕ=2πΦ/Φ0\phi = 2\pi\Phi/\Phi_0 is usually called the superconducting phase difference across the junction, and Φ0=2e/h\Phi_0=2e/h is the superconducting flux quantum. Notice that when Φ=Φ0\Phi=\Phi_0 the hopping changes sign: texp(iπ)t=tt \,\to\, \exp (i\pi) t = -t, exactly as we had last week!

Thus, the introduction of a flux quantum Φ=Φ0\Phi=\Phi_0, changes the sign of the hopping tteiϕ=tt\rightarrow t e^{i\phi}=-t, which as discussed last week changes the fermion parity of the ground state for topological superconductors. This fermion parity switch is related to a pair of Majorana modes coupled at the junction (as in the figure above).

To see how this happens explicitly, let's look at the spectrum of a topological superconducting ring as a function of flux, obtained using our nanowire model:

In [5]:
fluxes, spectrum = nanowire_spectrum() plot_spectrum_nanowire(fluxes, spectrum)

Staring at the spectrum we see that, lo and behold, the fermion parity switch appears, around Φ=Φ0/2\Phi=\Phi_0/2. Can we measure this fermion parity switch in our superconducting ring?

Detecting the fermion parity switch using the Josephson effect

The change in fermion parity of the ground state can be detected using the so-called Josephson effect. The Josephson current can be computed from the expectation value of the derivative of the energy operator with respect to flux,

I(Φ)=12dEtot(Φ)dΦ,I(\Phi)=\frac{1}{2}\frac{d E_\textrm{tot}(\Phi)}{d \Phi},

where Etot(Φ)=HBdG(Φ)E_\textrm{tot}(\Phi)=\left\langle H_{BdG}(\Phi)\right\rangle is the total energy of the system corresponding to the BdG Hamiltonian HBdG(Φ)H_{BdG}(\Phi).

The key idea to detecting the ground state fermion parity switch is to note that changing the flux Φ\Phi adiabatically cannot change the fermion parity of the system. If you start with the system in the ground state and advance the magnetic flux from Φ\Phi to Φ+Φ0\Phi+\Phi_0, you end up in an excited state, because in the meantime the fermion parity has changed. To go back to the initial ground state with the same fermion parity, you need to advance Φ\Phi by 2Φ02\Phi_0.

Note that this argument relies on the absence of a reservoir of electrons, such as a metallic lead. In this case, when the two levels cross at zero energy and the ground state fermion parity changes, there is no electron that can enter or leave the system.

The fermion parity switch, together with fermion parity conservation of the ring, result in the energy Etot(Φ)E_\textrm{tot}(\Phi) and the corresponding current (that can be measured) showing a 2Φ02\Phi_0 periodicity in Φ\Phi - that is, a 4π4\pi periodicity in ϕ\phi:

In [6]:
fluxes, spectrum = nanowire_spectrum() plot_gse_sc_nanowire(fluxes, spectrum)

At this point you might wonder, what is so unique about the 2Φ02\Phi_0 periodicity of the Josephson effect?

To answer this question, we need to review an alternative way of thinking about the Josephson effect in terms of just connecting a pair of superconductors by a junction without having to wrap the superconductor in a ring. In this case, the hopping phase ϕ\phi (which we also referred to as the superconducting phase) that appeared in the tunneling term proportional to teiϕ/2t e^{i\phi/2} can be eliminated by shifting the fermion operators on one side of the junction by a phase i.e. cceiϕ/2c^\dagger\rightarrow c^\dagger e^{-i\phi/2}. For superconducting systems, this transformation has the interesting effect of changing the superconducting phase on one side of the junction as

ΔΔeiϕ.\Delta\rightarrow \Delta e^{i\phi}.

Now you see why ϕ\phi was referred to as superconducting phase in the first place. After this transformation (also called a gauge transformation) ϕ\phi really becomes the complex phase of the superconducting term proportional to Δ\Delta.

But this also tells you one more thing - following the gauge transformation the Hamiltonian HBdGH_{BdG} only depends on ϕ\phi through the term Δeiϕ\Delta e^{i\phi}, so one expects the energy to be 2π2\pi periodic in ϕ\phi. This leads to the conventional wisdom that the Josephson effect is 2π2\pi-periodic (or equivalently Φ0\Phi_0-periodic in the case of a ring).

As seen from the plots below, this is exactly what happens in the non-topological phase. In this case, when we look at the energy spectrum, no fermion parity switches appear:

In [7]:
fluxes, spectrum = nanowire_spectrum(trivial=True) plot_spectrum_nanowire(fluxes, spectrum, ylim=[-0.11, 0.11])

In turn, this means that energy and current are periodic with period Φ0\Phi_0:

In [8]:
fluxes, spectrum = nanowire_spectrum(trivial=True) plot_gse_sc_nanowire(fluxes, spectrum)

At this point, you might be a little worried about how the topological superconductor managed to get around this conventional wisdom. The answer is subtle, and relies on the implicit assumption of the ground state fermion parity of the junction being fixed as one changes ϕ\phi. Topological superconductors violate this assumption and therefore can create the 4π4\pi periodic (or fractional) Josephson effect.

In [9]:
question = ("Suppose that in your topological nanowire junction, positive energy quasiparticles can escape " "into a reservoir very quickly, making the junction always relax to the ground state. " "How would this affect the periodicity of the Josephson effect?") answers = ["It would make the periodicity random because of the quasiparticles jumping around randomly.", "If the system can always relax to the ground state, the current would have a period of $\Phi_0$ (hence $2\pi)$.", "Since the Josephson effect is topologically protected, these processes have no effect on the periodicity.", "The period becomes $\Phi_0/2$ because it is easier for the quasiparticles to jump out at this value of the flux."] explanation = ("A particle tunneling out means that the fermion parity of the ground state changes. " "Hence the lowest between the red and black energy levels is always occupied, and both energy and current " "turn out to have a period $\Phi_0$.") MoocMultipleChoiceAssessment(question, answers, correct_answer=1, explanation=explanation)

Suppose that in your topological nanowire junction, positive energy quasiparticles can escape into a reservoir very quickly, making the junction always relax to the ground state. How would this affect the periodicity of the Josephson effect?

It would make the periodicity random because of the quasiparticles jumping around randomly.
If the system can always relax to the ground state, the current would have a period of Φ0\Phi_0 (hence 2π)2\pi).
Since the Josephson effect is topologically protected, these processes have no effect on the periodicity.
The period becomes Φ0/2\Phi_0/2 because it is easier for the quasiparticles to jump out at this value of the flux.


In [10]:
MoocVideo("sSacO5RpW5A", src_location="2.2-summary")
In [11]:
MoocDiscussion('Questions', 'Signatures of Majorana modes')

Discussion entitled 'Signatures of Majorana modes' is available in the online version of the course.