Experimental detection of a Majorana mode in the core of a magnetic vortex inside a topological insulator-superconductor Bi(2)Te(3)/NbSe(2) heterostructure

Phys Rev Lett. 2015 Jan 9;114(1):017001. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.017001. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


Majorana fermions have been intensively studied in recent years for their importance to both fundamental science and potential applications in topological quantum computing. They are predicted to exist in a vortex core of superconducting topological insulators. However, it is extremely difficult to distinguish them experimentally from other quasiparticle states for the tiny energy difference between Majorana fermions and these states, which is beyond the energy resolution of most available techniques. Here, we circumvent the problem by systematically investigating the spatial profile of the Majorana mode and the bound quasiparticle states within a vortex in Bi(2)Te(3) films grown on a superconductor NbSe(2). While the zero bias peak in local conductance splits right off the vortex center in conventional superconductors, it splits off at a finite distance ∼20 nm away from the vortex center in Bi(2)Te(3). This unusual splitting behavior has never been observed before and could be possibly due to the Majorana fermion zero mode. While the Majorana mode is destroyed by the interaction between vortices, the zero bias peak splits as a conventional superconductor again. This work provides self-consistent evidences of Majorana fermions and also suggests a possible route to manipulating them.