Light-induced collective pseudospin precession resonating with Higgs mode in a superconductor

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Science  05 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6201, pp. 1145-1149
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254697

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Optically manipulating superconductors

In superconductors, electrons of opposite momenta pair to form a highly correlated state that manages to flow without encountering any resistance. Matsunaga et al. manipulated the wavefunction of these pairs in the superconductor NbN with an electromagnetic pulse that they transmitted through a thin layer of the material (see the Perspective by Pashkin and Leitenstorfer). The superconducting gap, which is the energy needed to break the pairs apart, oscillated at twice the frequency of the pulse's electric field. When they matched this frequency to half the gap, the authors excited a collective mode in the superconductor called the Higgs mode, a relative of the Higgs boson in particle physics.

Science, this issue p. 1145; see also p. 1121


Superconductors host collective modes that can be manipulated with light. We show that a strong terahertz light field can induce oscillations of the superconducting order parameter in NbN with twice the frequency of the terahertz field. The result can be captured as a collective precession of Anderson’s pseudospins in ac driving fields. A resonance between the field and the Higgs amplitude mode of the superconductor then results in large terahertz third-harmonic generation. The method we present here paves a way toward nonlinear quantum optics in superconductors with driving the pseudospins collectively and can be potentially extended to exotic superconductors for shedding light on the character of order parameters and their coupling to other degrees of freedom.

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