Hard gap in a normal layer coupled to a superconductor

Christopher R. Reeg, Dmitrii L. Maslov
2016 Physical review B  
The ability to induce a sizable gap in the excitation spectrum of a normal layer placed in contact with a conventional superconductor has become increasingly important in recent years in the context of engineering a topological superconductor. The quasiclassical theory of the proximity effect shows that Andreev reflection at the superconductor/normal interface induces a nonzero pairing amplitude in the metal but does not endow it with a gap. Conversely, when the normal layer is atomically thin,
more » ... is atomically thin, the tunneling of Cooper pairs induces an excitation gap that can be as large as the bulk gap of the superconductor. We study how these two seemingly different views of the proximity effect evolve into one another as the thickness of the normal layer is changed. We show that a fully quantum-mechanical treatment of the problem predicts that the induced gap is always finite but falls off with the thickness of the normal layer, $d$. If $d$ is less than a certain crossover scale, which is much larger than the Fermi wavelength, the induced gap is comparable to the bulk gap. As a result, a sizable excitation gap can be induced in normal layers that are much thicker than the Fermi wavelength.
doi:10.1103/physrevb.94.020501 fatcat:nbfufgvph5d7tccqiswjhceltq