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Concept: Brian David Josephson


Nonlinear and switchable metamaterials achieved by artificial structuring on the subwavelength scale have become a central topic in photonics research. Switching with only a few quanta of excitation per metamolecule, metamaterial’s elementary building block, is the ultimate goal, achieving which will open new opportunities for energy efficient signal handling and quantum information processing. Recently, arrays of Josephson junction devices have been proposed as a possible solution. However, they require extremely high levels of nanofabrication. Here we introduce a new quantum superconducting metamaterial which exploits the magnetic flux quantization for switching. It does not contain Josephson junctions, making it simple to fabricate and scale into large arrays. The metamaterial was manufactured from a high-temperature superconductor and characterized in the low intensity regime, providing the first observation of the quantum phenomenon of flux exclusion affecting the far-field electromagnetic properties of the metamaterial.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Physics, Condensed matter physics, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, SQUID, Magnetic flux quantum, Brian David Josephson


The Josephson effect is perhaps the prototypical manifestation of macroscopic phase coherence, and forms the basis of a widely used electronic interferometer–the superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID). In 1965, Maki and Griffin predicted that the thermal current through a temperature-biased Josephson tunnel junction coupling two superconductors should be a stationary periodic function of the quantum phase difference between the superconductors: a temperature-biased SQUID should therefore allow heat currents to interfere, resulting in a thermal version of the electric Josephson interferometer. This phase-dependent mechanism of thermal transport has been the subject of much discussion but, surprisingly, has yet to be realized experimentally. Here we investigate heat exchange between two normal metal electrodes kept at different temperatures and tunnel-coupled to each other through a thermal ‘modulator’ (ref. 5) in the form of a direct-current SQUID. We find that heat transport in the system is phase dependent, in agreement with the original prediction. Our Josephson heat interferometer yields magnetic-flux-dependent temperature oscillations of up to 21 millikelvin in amplitude, and provides a flux-to-temperature transfer coefficient exceeding 60 millikelvin per flux quantum at 235 millikelvin. In addition to confirming the existence of a phase-dependent thermal current unique to Josephson junctions, our results point the way towards the phase-coherent manipulation of heat in solid-state nanocircuits.

Concepts: Condensed matter physics, Phase, Heat transfer, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, SQUID, Magnetic flux quantum, Brian David Josephson


In a conventional Josephson junction of graphene, the supercurrent is not turned off even at the charge neutrality point, impeding further development of superconducting quantum information devices based on graphene. Here we fabricate bipolar Josephson junctions of graphene, in which a p-n potential barrier is formed in graphene with two closely spaced superconducting contacts, and realize supercurrent ON/OFF states using electrostatic gating only. The bipolar Josephson junctions of graphene also show fully gate-driven macroscopic quantum tunnelling behaviour of Josephson phase particles in a potential well, where the confinement energy is gate tuneable. We suggest that the supercurrent OFF state is mainly caused by a supercurrent dephasing mechanism due to a random pseudomagnetic field generated by ripples in graphene, in sharp contrast to other nanohybrid Josephson junctions. Our study may pave the way for the development of new gate-tuneable superconducting quantum information devices.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Condensed matter physics, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, SQUID, Magnetic flux quantum, Brian David Josephson


Superconducting electronics based on Josephson junctions are used to sense and process electronic signals with minimal loss, however they are ultrasensitive to magnetic fields, limited in their amplification capabilities, and difficult to manufacture. We have developed a 3 terminal, nanowire-based superconducting electrothermal device which has no Josephson junctions. This device, which we call the nanocryotron, can be patterned from a single thin film of superconducting material with conventional electron-beam lithography. The nanocryotron has a demonstrated gain of >20, can drive impedances of 100 kΩ, and operates in typical ambient magnetic fields. We have additionally applied it both as a digital logic element in a half-adder circuit, and as a digital amplifier for superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors pulses. The nanocryotron has immediate applications in classical and quantum communications, photon sensing, and astronomy, and its input characteristics are suitable for integration with existing superconducting technologies.

Concepts: Electron, Quantum mechanics, Condensed matter physics, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, SQUID, Amplifier, Brian David Josephson


In some materials the competition between superconductivity and magnetism brings about a variety of unique phenomena such as the coexistence of superconductivity and magnetism in heavy-fermion superconductors or spin-triplet supercurrent in ferromagnetic Josephson junctions. Recent observations of spin-charge separation in a lateral spin valve with a superconductor evidence that these remarkable properties are applicable to spintronics, although there are still few works exploring this possibility. Here, we report the experimental observation of the quasiparticle-mediated spin Hall effect in a superconductor, NbN. This compound exhibits the inverse spin Hall (ISH) effect even below the superconducting transition temperature. Surprisingly, the ISH signal increases by more than 2,000 times compared with that in the normal state with a decrease of the injected spin current. The effect disappears when the distance between the voltage probes becomes larger than the charge imbalance length, corroborating that the huge ISH signals measured are mediated by quasiparticles.

Concepts: Electron, Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Condensed matter physics, Superconductivity, Spintronics, Josephson effect, Brian David Josephson


The Josephson effect describes the flow of supercurrent in a weak link-such as a tunnel junction, nanowire or molecule-between two superconductors. It is the basis for a variety of circuits and devices, with applications ranging from medicine to quantum information. Experiments using Josephson circuits that behave like artificial atoms are now revolutionizing the way we probe and exploit the laws of quantum physics. Microscopically, the supercurrent is carried by Andreev pair states, which are localized at the weak link. These states come in doublets and have energies inside the superconducting gap. Existing Josephson circuits are based on properties of just the ground state of each doublet, and so far the excited states have not been directly detected. Here we establish their existence through spectroscopic measurements of superconducting atomic contacts. The spectra, which depend on the atomic configuration and on the phase difference between the superconductors, are in complete agreement with theory. Andreev doublets could be exploited to encode information in novel types of superconducting qubits.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Condensed matter physics, Atom, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, SQUID, Magnetic flux quantum, Brian David Josephson


The performance of superconducting qubits has improved by several orders of magnitude in the past decade. These circuits benefit from the robustness of superconductivity and the Josephson effect, and at present they have not encountered any hard physical limits. However, building an error-corrected information processor with many such qubits will require solving specific architecture problems that constitute a new field of research. For the first time, physicists will have to master quantum error correction to design and operate complex active systems that are dissipative in nature, yet remain coherent indefinitely. We offer a view on some directions for the field and speculate on its future.

Concepts: Time, Quantum mechanics, Condensed matter physics, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, SQUID, Magnetic flux quantum, Brian David Josephson


In this work we present a method of representing terms in the current-phase-relation of a ballistic Josephson junction by combinations of diagrams, used in previous work to represent an equivalent of the matching condition determinant of the junction. This is accomplished by the expansion of the logarithm of this determinant in Taylor series and keeping track of surviving terms, i.e. terms that do not annihilate each other. The types of the surviving terms are represented by connected graphs, whose points represent diagrammatic terms of the determinant expansion. Then the theory is applied to obtain approximations of the current-phase relation of relatively thick ballistic ferromagnetic Josephson junctions with non-collinear magnetizations. This demonstrates the versatility of the method in developing approximations schemes and providing physical insight into the nature of contributions to the supercurrent from the available particle excitations in the junction. We also discuss the strong second harmonic contribution to the supercurrent in junctions with three mutually orthogonal magnetization vectors and a weak intermediate ferromagnet.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Magnetism, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, Elementary charge, Taylor series, Brian David Josephson, Pi Josephson junction


This review discusses the electronic properties and the prospective research directions of superconductor-graphene heterostructures. The basic electronic properties of graphene are introduced to highlight the unique possibility of combining two seemingly unrelated physics, superconductivity and relativity. We then focus on graphene-based Josephson junctions, one of the most versatile superconducting quantum devices. The various theoretical methods that have been developed to describe graphene Josephson junctions are examined, together with their advantages and limitations, followed by a discussion on the advances in device fabrication and the relevant length scales. The phase-sensitive properties and phase-particle dynamics of graphene Josephson junctions are examined to provide an understanding of the underlying mechanisms of Josephson coupling via graphene. Thereafter, microscopic transport of correlated quasiparticles produced by Andreev reflections at superconducting interfaces and their phase-coherent behaviors are discussed. Quantum phase transitions studied with graphene as an electrostatically tunable two-dimensional platform are reviewed. The interplay between proximity-induced superconductivity and the quantum-Hall phase is discussed as a possible route to study topological superconductivity and non-Abelian physics. Finally, a brief summary on the prospective future research directions is given.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Condensed matter physics, Phase transition, Superconductivity, Quantum phase transition, SQUID, Magnetic flux quantum, Brian David Josephson


Obtaining high efficiency spin-filtering at room temperature using spinel ferromagnetic tunnel barriers has been hampered by the formation of antiphase boundaries (APBs) due to their difference in lattice parameter between barrier and electrodes. In this work, we demonstrate the use of LiTi2O4 thin films as electrodes in an all-spinel oxide CoFe2O4-based spin filter devices. These structures show nearly perfect epitaxy maintained throughout the structure and so minimise the potential for APB formation. The LiTi2O4 in these devices is superconducting and so measurements at low temperature have been used to explore details of the tunnelling and Josephson junction behaviour.

Concepts: Condensed matter physics, Metrology, Superconductivity, Josephson effect, SQUID, Magnetic flux quantum, Brian David Josephson, Pi Josephson junction