RSS icon
Twitter icon
Facebook icon
Vimeo icon
YouTube icon

Fractional Josephson effect with and without Majorana zero modes

TitleFractional Josephson effect with and without Majorana zero modes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsC-K. Chiu, and S. Das Sarma
JournalPhys. Rev. B
Date PublishedJAN 29
Type of ArticleArticle

It is known that the low-energy physics of the Josephson effect in the presence of Majorana zero modes exhibits a 4 pi periodicity as the Aharonov-Bohm flux varies in contrast to the 2 pi Josephson periodicity in usual superconducting junctions. We study this fractional Josephson effect in one-dimensional topological superconductors in Majorana nanowire systems by focusing on the features of the phase-energy relations in a superconducting semiconductor nanowire with spin-orbital coupling by including different factors operational in experimental systems, such as short wire length, suppression of superconducting gap, and the presence of an Andreev bound state. We show that even in the absence of the Majorana zero modes, some nontopological physical effects can manifest a 4 pi periodicity of the phase-energy relation in the Josephson junction, thus providing an alternative physics for fractional Josephson effect with no underlying Majorana zero modes. Furthermore, we consider several scenarios of inhomogeneous chemical potential distributions in the superconducting nanowire leading to four Majorana bound states and construct the effective four-Majorana model to correctly describe the low-energy theory of the Josephson effect. In this setup, multiple Majorana zero modes can also have the 4 pi fractional Josephson effect, although the underlying physics arises from Andreev bound states since two close-by Majorana bound states effectively form Andreev bound states. Our work demonstrates that the mere observation of a fractional Josephson effect simulating 4 pi periodicity might not, by itself, be taken as the definitive evidence for topological superconductivity. This finding has important implications for the ongoing search for non-Abelian Majorana zero modes and efforts for developing topological qubits.