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Experimentally realizable devices for controlling the motion of magnetic flux quanta in anisotropic superconductors


A new generation of microscopic ratchet systems is currently being developed for controlling the motion of electrons and fluxons, as well as for particle separation and electrophoresis. Virtually all of these use static spatially asymmetric potential energies to control transport properties. Here we propose completely new types of ratchet-like systems that do not require fixed spatially asymmetric potentials in the samples. As specific examples of this novel general class of ratchets, we propose devices that control the motion of flux quanta in superconductors and could address a central problem in many superconducting devices; namely, the removal of trapped magnetic flux that produces noise. In layered superconductors there are two interpenetrating perpendicular vortex lattices consisting of Josephson vortices (JVs) and pancake vortices (PVs). We show that, owing to the JV–PV mutual interaction and asymmetric driving, the a.c. motion of JVs and/or PVs can provide a net d.c. vortex current. This controllable vortex motion can be used for making pumps, diodes and lenses of quantized magnetic flux. These proposed devices sculpt the microscopic magnetic flux profile by simply modifying the time dependence of the a.c. drive, without the need for samples with static pinning—for example, without lithography or irradiation.

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Figure 1: Schematic diagram of three experimentally realizable devices designed for controlling the vortex motion.
Figure 2: Modes of operation of the vortex pump.
Figure 3: The motion of the PV stacks can be controlled by changing input parameters.


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We gratefully acknowledge support from the US National Science Foundation grant No. EIA-0130383.

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Correspondence to Franco Nori.

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Savel'ev, S., Nori, F. Experimentally realizable devices for controlling the motion of magnetic flux quanta in anisotropic superconductors. Nature Mater 1, 179–184 (2002).

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