Retrapping current, self-heating, and hysteretic current-voltage characteristics in ultranarrow superconducting aluminum nanowires

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Hysteretic I-V (current-voltage) curves are studied in narrow Al nanowires. The nanowires have a cross section as small as 50 nm2. We focus on the retrapping current in a down-sweep of the current, at which a nanowire re-enters the superconducting state from a normal state. The retrapping current is found to be significantly smaller than the switching current at which the nanowire switches into the normal state from a superconducting state during a current up-sweep. For wires of different lengths, we analyze the heat removal due to various processes, including electron and phonon processes. For a short wire 1.5μm in length, electronic thermal conduction is effective; for longer wires 10μm in length, phonon conduction becomes important. We demonstrate that the measured retrapping current as a function of temperature can be quantitatively accounted for by the self-heating occurring in the normal portions of the nanowires to better than 20% accuracy. For the phonon processes, the extracted thermal conduction parameters support the notion of a reduced phase-space below three dimensions, consistent with the phonon thermal wavelength having exceeded the lateral dimensions at temperatures below ∼1.3 K. Nevertheless, surprisingly the best fit was achieved with a functional form corresponding to three-dimensional phonons, albeit requiring parameters far exceeding known values in the literature. © 2011 American Physical Society.





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Li, P, PM Wu, Y Bomze, IV Borzenets, G Finkelstein and AM Chang (2011). Retrapping current, self-heating, and hysteretic current-voltage characteristics in ultranarrow superconducting aluminum nanowires. Physical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics, 84(18). 10.1103/PhysRevB.84.184508 Retrieved from

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Gleb Finkelstein

Professor of Physics

Gleb Finkelstein is an experimentalist interested in physics of quantum nanostructures, such as Josephson junctions and quantum dots made of carbon nanotubes, graphene, and topological materials. These objects reveal a variety of interesting electronic properties that may form a basis for future quantum devices.


Albert M. Chang

Professor of Physics

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