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Why do vortices in a superconductor (i.e. magnetic flux-tubes) form triangular lattices? In one of the articles I found, I read that a square lattice would cause repulsion but a triangular lattice will cause attraction. Can anyone explain it?

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  • $\begingroup$ Closely related but for a superfluid: Triangular lattice arrangement of vortices in a superfluid. Philosophically, the answer is the same (triangular lattice is energetically favourable because it's a better way of packing "round" things). $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    May 10, 2023 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ "one of the article I read was that a square lattice would cause repulsion but the triangular lattice will cause attraction" -> may you provide the precise reference? This may also be of interest: Why are superfluid vortex lattices stable? (the lattice realized in an experiment must also be stable, not only minimize free energy). $\endgroup$
    – Quillo
    May 22, 2023 at 16:26

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The vortex lines in a superconductor (or a neutral superfluid) form a regular crystal. Just like in a solid the precise arrangement depends on the interaction between the vortices, and is the one that minimizes the energy (or free energy) of the system.

The profile of a single vortex line and the interaction between them can be obtained from the Landau-Ginzburg theory. For two parallel vortices with the same circulation the interaction is $$ E_{int} = \frac{\Phi_0}{2\pi\lambda^2}K_0(r/\lambda) $$ where $K_0$ is a modified Bessel function, $r$ is the separation, $\lambda$ is the penetration length, and $\Phi_0$ is the flux quantum. The is a repulsive force, which decays exponentially with distance.

It is now a straightforward exercise, first undertaken by Abrikosov, to compare the energy of a square lattice and a triangular lattice. The result (as described in the paper) is that the triangular arrangement is favored.

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