Ginzburg-Landau theory in superconductors

Learn about the Ginzburg-Landau theory in superconductors, which explains the phenomenon of zero electrical resistance below a critical temperature. Discover its applications and implications in condensed matter physics.

Ginzburg-Landau Theory in Superconductors


Superconductivity is a fascinating phenomenon where certain materials lose their electrical resistance when cooled below a certain temperature, called the critical temperature. The first observation of superconductivity was made by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911, and since then, the study of superconductors has led to several technological advancements, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and particle accelerators.

In 1950, Vitaly Ginzburg and Lev Landau proposed a theory to explain superconductivity, now known as the Ginzburg-Landau theory. This theory describes superconductivity as a phase transition where the material’s properties change abruptly below the critical temperature.


The Ginzburg-Landau theory considers a superconductor as a complex order parameter, represented by a wave function Ψ. This wave function is related to the probability amplitude of the superconducting electrons in the material. Below the critical temperature, the wave function acquires a non-zero value, indicating that the electrons are paired up and move without resistance through the material.

The Ginzburg-Landau theory introduces a free energy functional, F[Ψ], which depends on the wave function Ψ and its spatial derivatives. This functional is minimized when the wave function satisfies certain boundary conditions, representing the ground state of the superconductor.

The free energy functional is expressed as a Taylor series expansion in terms of the modulus of the wave function, |Ψ|², and its phase, φ. The first term in the expansion is proportional to (|Ψ|² – |Ψ|⁴), which describes the non-linear behavior of the wave function. The second term is proportional to |(∇ – i2eA)Ψ|², where A is the vector potential of the magnetic field, and e is the electron charge. This term represents the kinetic energy of the superconducting electrons in the presence of a magnetic field.

The Ginzburg-Landau theory predicts that the superconducting state is stable when the magnitude of the vector potential is less than a certain value, called the penetration depth. When the magnetic field is stronger than this critical value, the superconductivity breaks down, and the material becomes normal again.

In conclusion, the Ginzburg-Landau theory provides a powerful framework for understanding the properties of superconductors, including their critical temperature and response to magnetic fields. It has paved the way for further research in the field and has contributed significantly to the development of superconducting technologies.


The Ginzburg-Landau theory has several applications in the field of superconductivity. One of its most significant contributions is the prediction of the existence of two types of superconductors: type I and type II.

Type I superconductors have a single critical field, above which they lose their superconductivity. On the other hand, type II superconductors have two critical fields, below and above which they exhibit different behaviors. In the mixed state, type II superconductors form vortices, where the magnetic field penetrates the material in quantized amounts.

The Ginzburg-Landau theory also provides a framework for understanding the Meissner effect, where a superconductor expels magnetic fields from its interior. This effect is essential in the development of superconducting devices, such as MRI machines and particle accelerators, where strong magnetic fields are required.

Moreover, the Ginzburg-Landau theory has been applied to other areas of physics, such as condensed matter physics, where it has helped to explain phase transitions in other systems, such as ferromagnets and liquid crystals.


In summary, the Ginzburg-Landau theory provides a powerful tool for understanding the properties of superconductors. It describes superconductivity as a phase transition and predicts the behavior of superconductors in the presence of magnetic fields. The theory has several applications in the field of superconductivity, including the prediction of two types of superconductors and the understanding of the Meissner effect. Moreover, it has contributed significantly to other areas of physics, such as condensed matter physics.