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Addition of nanoparticle dispersions to enhance flux pinning of the YBa2Cu3O7-x superconductor

Abstract

Following the discovery of type-II high-temperature superconductors in 1986 (refs 1, 2), work has proceeded to develop these materials for power applications. One of the problems, however, has been that magnetic flux is not completely expelled, but rather is contained within magnetic fluxons, whose motion prevents larger supercurrents. It is known that the critical current of these materials can be enhanced by incorporating a high density of extended defects to act as pinning centres for the fluxons3,4. YBa2Cu3O7 (YBCO or 123) is the most promising material for such applications at higher temperatures (liquid nitrogen)3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13. Pinning is optimized when the size of the defects approaches the superconducting coherence length ( 2–4 nm for YBCO at temperatures ≤77 K) and when the areal number density of defects is of the order of (H/2) × 1011 cm-2, where H is the applied magnetic field in tesla3,4. Such a high density has been difficult to achieve by material-processing methods that maintain a nanosize defect, except through irradiation5. Here we report a method for achieving a dispersion of 8-nm-sized nanoparticles in YBCO with a high number density, which increases the critical current (at 77 K) by a factor of two to three for high magnetic fields.

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Figure 1: Micrograph of a YBCO + nanoparticle film showing surface nanoparticle formation.
Figure 2: Transmission electron micrographs of YBCO + nanoparticle films, showing repeat layering structure and nanoparticle formations.
Figure 3: Critical current density as a function of applied magnetic field for YBCO + nanoparticle films compared to pure YBCO films.

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Acknowledgements

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research supported this work. We thank J. Murphy, L. Brunke, J. Evans and T. Campbell for experimental assistance, and S. Apt of UES Inc. at the Wright-Patterson AFB Materials Directorate for assistance with SEM and TEM. We also thank R. Feenstra and A. A. Gapud at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for providing Jc(H) data for a reference 123 film.

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Haugan, T., Barnes, P., Wheeler, R. et al. Addition of nanoparticle dispersions to enhance flux pinning of the YBa2Cu3O7-x superconductor. Nature 430, 867–870 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02792

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