Metallization and proximity superconductivity in topological insulator nanowires
A heterostructure consisting of a topological insulator (TI) nanowire brought into proximity with a superconducting layer provides a promising route to achieve topological superconductivity and associated Majorana bound states. Here we study the effects caused by such a coupling between a thin layer of an s -wave superconductor and a TI nanowire. We show that there is a distinct phenomenology arising from the metallization of states in the TI nanowire by the superconductor. In the strong coupling limit, required to induce a large superconducting pairing potential, we find that metallization results in a shift of the TI nanowire sub-bands (∼20 meV ) as well as it leads to a small reduction in the size of the sub-band gap opened by a magnetic field applied parallel to the nanowire axis. Surprisingly, we find that metallization effects in TI nanowires can also be beneficial. Most notably, coupling to the superconductor induces a potential in the portion of the TI nanowire close to the interface with the superconductor; this breaks inversion symmetry and at finite momentum lifts the spin degeneracy of states within a sub-band. As such coupling to a superconductor can create or enhance the sub-band splitting that is key to achieving topological superconductivity. This is in stark contrast with semiconductors, where it has been shown that metallization effects always reduce the equivalent sub-band splitting caused by spin-orbit coupling. We also find that in certain geometries metallization effects can reduce the critical magnetic required to enter the topological phase. We conclude that, unlike in semiconductors, the metallization effects that occur in TI nanowires can be relatively easily mitigated, for instance, by modifying the geometry of the attached superconductor or by compensation of the TI material.
Physical Review B
- Pub Date:
- April 2022
- Condensed Matter - Mesoscale and Nanoscale Physics;
- Condensed Matter - Superconductivity
- 10 pages, 7 figures