Spin-Orbit Protection of Induced Superconductivity in Majorana Nanowires

Abstract

Spin-orbit interaction (SOI), a relativistic effect linking the motion of an electron (orbit) with its magnetic moment (spin), is an essential ingredient for various realisations of topological superconductivity, which host Majorana zero-modes, the building blocks of topological quantum computation. The prime platform for topological quantum computation is based on a semiconductor nanowire coupled to a conventional superconductor, the Majorana nanowire, in which SOI plays a key role by protecting the superconducting energy gap. Despite significant progress towards topological quantum computation, direct observation of SOI in Majorana nanowires has been challenging. Here, we observe SOI in an InSb nanowire coupled to a NbTiN superconductor. The magnetic field resilience of our superconductor allows us to track the evolution of the induced superconducting gap in a large range of magnetic field strengths and orientations, clearly revealing the presence of SOI. Numerical calculations of our devices confirm our conclusions and indicate a SOI strength of 0.15 - 0.35 eVÅ, sufficient to create Majorana zero-modes. We find that the direction of the spin-orbit field is strongly affected by the geometry of the superconductor and can be tuned by electrostatic gating. Our study provides an important guideline to optimise Majorana circuits.

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