Metallic nanograins : spatially nonuniform pairing induced by quantum confinement
Faculty of Sciences. Physics
Physical review : B : condensed matter and materials physics. - Lancaster, Pa, 1998 - 2015
, p. 214509,1-214509,12
University of Antwerp
It is well known that the formation of discrete electron levels strongly influences the pairing in metallic nanograins. Here, we focus on another effect of quantum confinement in superconducting grains that was not studied previously, i.e., spatially nonuniform pairing. This effect is very significant when single-electron levels form bunches and/or a kind of shell structure. We find that, in highly symmetric grains, the order parameter can exhibit variations with position by an order of magnitude. Nonuniform pairing is closely related to a quantum-confinement-induced modification of the pairing-interaction matrix elements and size-dependent pinning of the chemical potential to groups of degenerate or nearly degenerate levels. For illustrative purposes, we consider spherical metallic nanograins and also rectangular shapes. We show that the relevant matrix elements are, as a rule, enhanced in the presence of quantum confinement, which favors spatial variations of the order parameter, compensating the corresponding energy cost. The size-dependent pinning of the chemical potential further increases the spatial variation of the pair condensate. The role of nonuniform pairing is smaller in less symmetric confining geometries and/or in the presence of disorder. However, it always remains of importance when the energy spacing between discrete electron levels δ is approaching the scale of the bulk gap ΔB, i.e., δ>0.10.2 ΔB.