Quantum suppression of superconductivity in nanowires

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It is of fundamental importance to establish whether there is a limit to how thin a superconducting wire can be, while retaining its superconducting character - and if there is such limit, to understand what determines it. This issue may be of practical importance in defining the limit to miniaturization of superconducting electronic circuits. Recently, a new fabrication method, called molecular templating, was developed and used to answer such questions. In this approach, a suspended carbon nanotube is coated with a thin superconducting metal film, thus forming a superconducting nanowire. The wire obtained is automatically attached to the two leads formed by the sides of the trench. The usual material for such wires is the amorphous alloy of MoGe (Graybeal 1985 PhD Thesis Stanford University; Graybeal and Beasley 1984 Phys. Rev. B 29 4167; Yazdani and Kapitulnik 1995 Phys. Rev. Lett. 74 3037; Turneaure et al 2000 Phys. Rev. Lett. 84 987). Such wires typically exhibit a high degree of homogeneity and can be made very small: as thin as ∼5nm in diameter and as short as ∼40nm in length. The results of transport measurements on such homogeneous wires can be summarized as follows. Short wires, shorter than some empirical length, ∼200nm for MoGe, exhibit a clear dichotomy. They show either a superconducting behavior, with the resistance controlled by thermal fluctuations, or a weakly insulating behavior, with the resistance controlled by the weak Coulomb blockade. Thus a quantum superconductor-insulator transition (SIT) is indicated. Longer wires exhibit a gradual crossover behavior, from almost perfectly superconducting to normal or weakly insulating behavior, as their diameter is reduced. Measurements of wires, which are made inhomogeneous (granular) on purpose, show that such wires, even if they are short in the sense stated above, do not show a clear dichotomy, which could be identified as an SIT (Bollinger et al 2004 Phys. Rev. B 69 180503(R)). Thus, inhomogeneity destroys the SIT, as in the case of thin superconducting films (Frydman 2003 Physica C 391 189-95). Here, only properties of homogeneous wires are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number043202
JournalJournal of Physics Condensed Matter
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 30 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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