Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
Physics and Astronomy
The non-Abelian statistics of Majorana fermions (MFs) makes them an ideal platform for implementing topological quantum computation. In addition to the fascinating fundamental physics underlying the emergence of MFs, this potential for applications makes the study of these quasiparticles an extremely popular subject in condensed matter physics. The commonly called `Majorana fermions' are zero-energy bound states that emerge near boundaries and defects in topological superconducting phases, which can be engineered, for example, by proximity coupling strong spin-orbit coupling semiconductor nanowires and ordinary s-wave superconductors. The stability of these bound states is determined by the stability of the underlying topological superconducting phase. Hence, understanding their stability (which is critical for quantum computation), involves studying the robustness of the engineered topological superconductors. This work addresses this important problem in the context of two types of hybrid structures that have been proposed for realizing topological superconductivity: topological insulator - superconductor (TI-SC) and semiconductor - superconductor (SM-SC) nanostructures. In both structures, electrostatic effects due to applied external potentials and interface-induced potentials are significant. This work focuses on developing a theoretical framework for understanding these effects, to facilitate the optimization of the nanostructures studied in the laboratory.;The approach presented in this thesis is based on describing the low-energy physics of the hybrid structure using effective tight-binding models that explicitly incorporate the proximity effects emerging at interfaces. Generically, as a result of the proximity coupling to the superconductor, an induced gap emerges in the semiconductor (topological insulator) sub-system. The strength of the proximity-induced gap is determined by the transparency of the interface and by the amplitude of the low- energy SM (TI) states at the interface. In turn, this amplitude is strongly impacted by electrostatic effects. In addition, these effects control the value of the chemical potential in the nanowire (nanoribbon), as well as the strength of the Rashba-type spin-orbit coupling -- two key parameters that determine the stability of the topological superconducting phase. To account for these critical effects, a numerically efficient Poisson-Schrodinger scheme is developed.
Sitthison, Piyapong, "Robustness of Topological Superconductivity in Solid State Hybrid Structures" (2016). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 6651.