Motivated by the experimental detection of superconductivity in the low-carrier density half-Heusler compound YPtBi, we study the pairing instabilities of three-dimensional strongly spin-orbit coupled semimetals with a quadratic band touching point. In these semimetals the electronic structure at the Fermi energy is described by spin j=32 quasiparticles, which are fundamentally different from those in ordinary metals with spin j=12. For both local and nonlocal pairing channels in j=32 materials we develop a general approach to analyzing pairing instabilities, thereby providing the computational tools needed to investigate the physics of these systems beyond phenomenological considerations. Furthermore, applying our method to a generic density-density interaction, we establish that: (i) The pairing strengths in the different symmetry channels uniquely encode the j=32 nature of the Fermi surface band structure - a manifestation of the fundamental difference with ordinary metals. (ii) The leading odd-parity pairing instabilities are different for electron doping and hole doping. Finally, we argue that polar phonons, i.e., Coulomb interactions mediated by the long-ranged electric polarization of the optical phonon modes, provide a coupling strength large enough to account for a Kelvin-range transition temperature in the s-wave channel, and are likely to play an important role in the overall attraction in non-s-wave channels. Moreover, the explicit calculation of the coupling strengths allows us to conclude that the two largest non-s-wave contributions occur in nonlocal channels, in contrast with what has been commonly assumed.
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