Observation of the superconducting proximity effect in the surface state of SmB6 thin films

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Abstract

The proximity effect at the interface between a topological insulator and a superconductor is predicted to give rise to chiral topological superconductivity and Majorana fermion excitations. In most topological insulators studied to date, however, the conducting bulk states have overwhelmed the transport properties and precluded the investigation of the interplay of the topological surface state and Cooper pairs. Here, we demonstrate the superconducting proximity effect in the surface state of SmB6 thin films which display bulk insulation at low temperatures. The Fermi velocity in the surface state deduced from the proximity effect is found to be as large as 105m/s, in good agreement with the value obtained from a separate transport measurement. We show that high transparency between the topological insulator and a superconductor is crucial for the proximity effect. The finding here opens the door to investigation of exotic quantum phenomena using all-thin-film multilayers with high-transparency interfaces.

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Lee, S., Zhang, X., Liang, Y., Fackler, S. W., Yong, J., Wang, X., … Takeuchi, I. (2016). Observation of the superconducting proximity effect in the surface state of SmB6 thin films. Physical Review X, 6(3). https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevX.6.031031

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