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Two-fold symmetric superconductivity in few-layer NbSe2

Abstract

The strong Ising spin–orbit coupling in certain two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides can profoundly affect the superconducting state in few-layer samples. For example, in NbSe2, this effect combines with the reduced dimensionality to stabilize the superconducting state against magnetic fields up to ~35 T, and could lead to topological superconductivity. Here we report a two-fold rotational symmetry of the superconducting state in few-layer NbSe2 under in-plane external magnetic fields, in contrast to the three-fold symmetry of the lattice. Both the magnetoresistance and critical field exhibit this two-fold symmetry, and it also manifests deep inside the superconducting state in NbSe2/CrBr3 superconductor-magnet tunnel junctions. In both cases, the anisotropy vanishes in the normal state, demonstrating that it is an intrinsic property of the superconducting phase. We attribute the behaviour to the mixing between two closely competing pairing instabilities, namely the conventional s-wave instability typical of bulk NbSe2 and an unconventional d- or p-wave channel that emerges in few-layer NbSe2. Our results demonstrate the unconventional character of the pairing interaction in few-layer transition metal dichalcogenides and highlight the exotic superconductivity in this family of two-dimensional materials.

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Fig. 1: Crystal structure, device layout and characterization.
Fig. 2: Magnetoresistance and effective critical field signatures of two-fold superconducting behaviour.
Fig. 3: Differential conductance spectra under an in-plane magnetic field.
Fig. 4: Theoretical model for the two-fold anisotropic gap in NbSe2.

Data availability

Data for figures (including Supplementary figures) are available in the public repository Zenodo at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4545917. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

All relevant codes needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank E.-A. Kim for useful discussions. B.H. and A.H. thank D. Graf and S. Maier for their discussions and support related to work done at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Special thanks also go to Z. Jiang for all of the support associated with the Physical Property Measurement System at UMN. The work at the University of Minnesota (UMN) was supported primarily by the National Science Foundation through the University of Minnesota MRSEC, under Awards DMR-2011401 and DMR-1420013 (iSuperSeed). Portions of the UMN work were conducted in the Minnesota Nano Center, which is supported by the National Science Foundation through the National Nano Coordinated Infrastructure Network (NNCI) under award no. ECCS-1542202. A portion of this work was performed at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, which is supported by National Science Foundation Cooperative agreement no. DMR-1644779 and the State of Florida. The research at Cornell was supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) under award no. N00014-18-1-2368 for the tunnelling measurements, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) under award no. DMR-1807810 for the fabrication of tunnel junctions. The work in Lausanne was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. K.F.M. also acknowledges support from a David and Lucille Packard Fellowship.

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B.H., A.H., V.S.P. and K.W. designed the magnetoresistance and effective critical field experiments. B.H. performed the transport measurements at UMN with support from A.H. and K.-T.T. B.H. and A.H. performed the measurements at the NHMFL with support from A.S. B.H. analysed the data with support from A.H. under the supervision of V.S.P. and K.W. A.H., K.-T.T. and X.Z. fabricated the magneto-transport heterostructures with support from B.H., under the supervision of K.W. Analytical modelling was performed by D.S., R.M.F. and F.J.B., who also contributed to the interpretation of the results. E.S., X.X., J.S. and K.F.M. designed the junction experiments. E.S. and X.X. fabricated and measured the junctions under the supervision of J.S. and K.F.M. E.S. analysed the junction data under the supervision of J.S. and K.F.M., with input from V.S.P. and R.M.F. H.B. and L.F. grew the bulk NbSe2 samples for tunnel junction studies. B.H., A.H., E.S., D.S., V.S.P. and R.M.F. co-wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and provided comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ke Wang or Vlad S. Pribiag.

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Peer review information Nature Physics thanks Hadar Steinberg, Carsten Timm and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–11, Discussion and Table 12.

Supplementary Data

Fig. 1.2 data, Fig. 1.3 data, Fig. 2 data, Fig. 3 data, Fig. 4 data, Fig. 5 data, Fig. 6 data, Fig. 7 data, Fig. 8 data, Fig. 11.1 data and Fig. 11.2 data.

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Source Data Fig. 3

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Hamill, A., Heischmidt, B., Sohn, E. et al. Two-fold symmetric superconductivity in few-layer NbSe2. Nat. Phys. 17, 949–954 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-021-01219-x

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