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Signatures of topological phase transitions in mesoscopic superconducting rings

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number025001
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/02/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>New Journal of Physics
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


We investigate Josephson currents in mesoscopic rings with a weak link which are in or near a topological superconducting phase. As a paradigmatic example, we consider the Kitaev model of a spinless p-wave superconductor in one dimension, emphasizing how this model emerges from more realistic settings based on semiconductor nanowires. We show that the flux periodicity of the Josephson current provides signatures of the topological phase transition and the emergence of Majorana fermions (MF) situated on both sides of the weak link even when fermion parity is not a good quantum number. In large rings, the MF hybridize only across the weak link. In this case, the Josephson current is h/e periodic in the flux threading the loop when fermion parity is a good quantum number but reverts to the more conventional h/2e periodicity in the presence of fermion-parity changing relaxation processes. In mesoscopic rings, the MF also hybridize through their overlap in the interior of the superconducting ring. We find that in the topological superconducting phase, this gives rise to an h/e-periodic contribution even when fermion parity is not conserved and that this contribution exhibits a peak near the topological phase transition. This signature of the topological phase transition is robust to the effects of disorder. As a byproduct, we find that close to the topological phase transition, disorder drives the system deeper into the topological phase. This is in stark contrast to the known behavior far from the phase transition, where disorder tends to suppress the topological phase.