Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

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.


  1. Bednorz, J. G. & Muller, K. A. Possible high Tc superconductivity in the Ba-La-Cu-O system. Z. Phys. B 64, 189–193 (1986)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Wu, M. K. et al. Superconductivity at 93 K in a new mixed-phase Y-Ba-Cu-O compound system at ambient pressure. Phys. Rev. Lett. 58, 908–910 (1987)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Larbalestier, D., Gurevich, A., Matthew Feldmann, D. & Polyanskii, A. High-Tc superconducting materials for electric power applications. Nature 414, 368–377 (2001)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Matsushita, T. Flux pinning in superconducting 123 materials. Supercond. Sci. Technol. 13, 730–737 (2000)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Civale, L. et al. Vortex confinement by columnar defects in YBa2Cu3O7 crystals: enhanced pinning at high fields and temperatures. Phys. Rev. Lett. 67, 648–651 (1991)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Selvamanickam, V. et al. Fabrication of 100 A class, 1 m long coated conductor tapes by metal organic chemical vapor deposition and pulsed laser deposition. Physica C 392–396, 859–862 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  7. Verebelyi, D. T. et al. Uniform performance of continuously processed MOD-YBCO-coated conductors using a textured Ni-W substrate. Supercond. Sci. Technol. 16, L19–L22 (2003)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Groves, J. R. et al. Recent progress in continuously processed IBAD MgO template meters for HTS applications. Physica C 382, 43–47 (2002)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Goyal, A. et al. Recent progress in the fabrication of high-Jc tapes by epitaxial deposition of YBCO on RABiTS. Physica C 357–360, 903–913 (2001)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Balachandran, U. et al. Development of coated conductors by inclined substrate deposition. Physica C 392–396, 806–814 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  11. Kakimoto, K., Iijima, Y. & Saitoh, T. Fabrication of long-Y123 coated conductors by a combination of IBAD and PLD. Physica C 392–396, 783–789 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  12. Yamasaki, H., Nakagawa, Y., Sawa, A., Obara, H. & Develos, K. Flux pinning effects of twin boundaries studied with unidirectionally twinned YBCO films. Physica C 372–376, 1885–1889 (2002)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  13. Feenstra, R., Christen, D. K., Klabunde, C. E. & Budai, J. D. Role of oxygen vacancies in the flux-pinning mechanism, and hole-doping lattice disorder in high-current-density YBa2Cu3O7-x films. Phys. Rev. B 45, 7555–7558 (1993 1992)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  14. Larbalestier, D. C. & Maley, M. P. Conductors from superconductors: conventional low-temperature and new high-temperature superconducting conductors. MRS Bull. 18, 50–56 (Aug. 1993)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Dam, B. et al. Origin of high critical currents in YBa2Cu3O7-x superconducting thin films. Nature 399, 439–442 (1999)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Pan, V. M. et al. Nature of magnetic field and angular dependencies of the critical current density in epitaxial HTS YBa2Cu3O7-x films. Physica C 388–389, 431–432 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. Reichelt, K. Nucleation and growth of thin films. Vacuum 38, 1083–1099 (1988)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Redl, F. X., Murray, K.-S., Cho, C. B. & O'Brien, S. Three-dimensional binary superlattices of magnetic nanocrystals and semiconductor quantum dots. Nature 423, 968–971 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Springholz, G., Holy, V., Pinczolits, M. & Bauer, G. Self-organized growth of three-dimensional quantum-dot crystals with FCC-like stacking and a tunable lattice constant. Science 282, 734–737 (1998)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Liu, P., Zhang, Y. W. & Lu, C. Self-organized growth of three-dimensional quantum-dot superlattices. Appl. Phys. Lett. 80, 3910–3912 (2002)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Haugan, T. et al. Island-growth of Y2BaCuO5 nanoparticles in (2111.5 nm/12310 nm)xN composite multilayer structures to enhance flux pinning of YBa2Cu3O7-δ films. J. Mater. Res. 18, 2618–2623 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Gross, R. E. & Campbell, A. M. Numerical calculation of elastic pinning parameters by point pins. Physica C 260, 188–196 (1996)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Haugan, T., Barnes, P. N., Brunke, L., Maartense, I. & Murphy, J. Effect of O2 partial pressure on YBa2Cu3O7-δ thin film growth by pulsed laser deposition. Physica C 297, 47–57 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. Zhu, Y., Cai, Z. X., Budhani, R. C., Suenaga, M. & Welch, D. O. Structures and effects of radiation damage in cuprate superconductors irradiated with several-hundred-MeV heavy ions. Phys. Rev. B 48, 6436–6450 (1993)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to T. Haugan.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing