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Study of the washboard potential in Josephson junctions with

non-conventional current-phase relation

D. Massarotti1,2, R. Caruso1, A. Pal3, G. Rotoli4, M. G. Blamire3, and F.Tafuri2,4


di Fisica, Universit degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Complesso Universitario di Monte SantAngelo, via Cintia, 80126, Napoli, Italy
2 CNR-SPIN Napoli, Complesso Universitario di Monte SantAngelo, via Cintia, 80126, Napoli, Italy
3Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge, 27 Charles Babbage Road, Cambridge, CB3 0FS, United Kingdom
4 Dipartimento di Ingegneria Industriale e dellInformazione, Seconda Universit di Napoli, 81031, Aversa (CE), Italy

The phase dynamics of Josephson junctions has been intensively studied in the
previous years using the washboard potential in the framework of the resistively
and capacitively shunted junction (RCSJ) model. The most common approach is to
consider only the first harmonic contribution, so that the washboard potential has
the form U=EJ(1-cos - I/Ic).
In recent years, Josephson junctions incorporating non-conventional barriers
such as ferromagnets or ferromagnetic insulators have been widely fabricated
[1,2,3]. In these junctions the appearance of uncommon effects - such as the halving of the Fraunhofer pattern [4] - is observed. Some of these effects can be explained considering a second harmonic contribution in the current-phase relation
that describes the junction.
Here we study the phase dynamics as a function of the ratio G between the first
and the second harmonic terms, of the damping factor Q and of the temperature T.

Figure (2)

We consider a current-phase relation of the form I=Ic1 sin + Ic2 sin 2 and we obtain the following expression for the washboard potential when no bias current is
I c2

I c1 I c1 cos

U ( )



Left: washboard potential of eq. (2) for G>0.5, normalized with respect to the maximum critical current. It is clear that as the second harmonic contribution increases, the minima for =0 and for = became closer and closer and finally indistinguishable for very large G. This explains the presence of a single critical current in
our simulations for G10. Right: height of the two barriers and their ratio as a
function of the factor G when a bias current of 0.5Ic2 is applied. Also in this case the
two barriers become indistinguishable for very large G.

U is defined with accuracy of a constant, in this case the constant is chosen so that
U(0)=0, which is the usual choice for Josephson junction with only the first harmonic term in the I() expression.
For our following calculations we also used the renormalized form
U ( )
I max


1 G
1 G


where G=Ic2/Ic1.


Figure (3)
As anticipated in figure (1) the damping factor Q plays a major role in the observation of a double critical current. Here we present a phase diagram for the two switching regimes. When Q is very high (>100) the double switching is always obtained
from numerical simulations of the phase dynamics for G>1. In fact, the lower is the
damping the higher is the the probability for the phase particle to be retrapped also in the smaller potential well. When Q is low, the phase particle is always retrapped in the deeper potential well, so a single peak in the switching distribution is

Figure (1)
Plot of the washboard potential for different value of G using eq.(1). The presence
of two different regimes for G>0.5 and G<-0.5, as reported in [5], is clearly visible.
In the first case, the minima of the function are located at =0 and =, with the
second minimum higher than the first. In the second case, the minima are located
at 0<< and the potential well has a double degeneracy. From our numerical simulations we expect two critical currents for certain values of the temperature T
and the damping factor Q, both for G>0.5 and for G<-0.5. When two critical currents are present, the switching distribution shows a clear double peak, which indicate the escape from different potential wells.

This work contributes to extend the comprehension of the phase dynamics of Josephson junctions with a second harmonic in the current-phase relation, which was
already analyzed with great detail in the case G<0 in [4]. In particular, we identified
the conditions under which we observe only one critical current even in presence
of a second harmonic term.
We also conclude that the presence of a strong second harmonic contribution halves the barrier height in the washboard potential, so the next step is to verify this
prediction and eventually use it as a signature of a second harmonic contribution
in Josephson junctions in which the current-phase relation has not been completely clarified.

[1] Buzdin, A.I., Rev. Mod. Phys. 77, 935, (2007)
[2] Senapati, K. Blamire, M.G. and Barber, Z. H., Nat. Mat. 10, 849, (2011)
[3] Lehnert, K. W. Argaman, N. Blank, H. R. Wong, K. C. Allen, S. J. Hu, E. L. and Kroemer, H., Phys. Rev. Lett. 82, 1265, (1999)
[4] Pal, A. Barber, Z. H. Robinson, J. and Blamire, M.G., Nat. Comm. 5, 3340, (2013)
[5] Goldobin, E. Koelle, D. Kleiner, R. and Buzdin, A., Phys. Rev. B 76, 224523 (2007)