Stochastic dynamics of phase-slip trains and superconductive-resistive switching in current-biased nanowires

David Pekker, Nayana Shah, Mitrabhanu Sahu, Alexey Bezryadin, Paul M. Goldbart

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Superconducting nanowires fabricated via carbon-nanotube templating can be used to realize and study quasi-one-dimensional superconductors. However, measurement of the linear resistance of these nanowires have been inconclusive in determining the low-temperature behavior of phase-slip fluctuations, both quantal and thermal. Thus, we are motivated to study the nonlinear current-voltage characteristics in current-biased nanowires and the stochastic dynamics of superconductive-resistive switching, as a way of probing phase-slip events. In particular, we address the question: can a single phase-slip event occurring somewhere along the wire-during which the order-parameter fluctuates to zero-induce switching, via the local heating it causes? We explore this and related issues by constructing a stochastic model for the time evolution of the temperature in a nanowire whose ends are maintained at a fixed temperature. We derive the corresponding master equation as a tool for evaluating and analyzing the mean switching time at a given value of current (smaller than the depairing critical current). The model indicates that although, in general, several phase-slip events are necessary to induce switching via a thermal runaway, there is indeed a regime of temperatures and currents in which a single event is sufficient. We carry out a detailed comparison of the results of the model with experimental measurements of the distribution of switching currents, and provide an explanation for the rather counterintuitive broadening of the distribution width that is observed upon lowering the temperature. Moreover, we identify a regime in which the experiments are probing individual phase-slip events, and thus offer a way of unearthing and exploring the physics of nanoscale quantum tunneling of the one-dimensional collective quantum field associated with the superconducting order parameter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number214525
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number21
StatePublished - Dec 21 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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