The most profound effect of disorder on electronic systems is the localization of the electrons transforming an otherwise metallic system into an insulator. If the metal is also a superconductor then, at low temperatures, disorder can induce a pronounced transition from a superconducting into an insulating state. An outstanding question is whether the route to insulating behaviour proceeds through the direct localization of Cooper pairs or, alternatively, by a two-step process in which the Cooper pairing is first destroyed followed by the standard localization of single electrons. Here we address this question by studying the local superconducting gap of a highly disordered amorphous superconductor by means of scanning tunnelling spectroscopy. Our measurements reveal that, in the vicinity of the superconductor–insulator transition, the coherence peaks in the one-particle density of states disappear whereas the superconducting gap remains intact, indicating the presence of localized Cooper pairs. Our results provide the first direct evidence that the superconductor–insulator transition in some homogeneously disordered materials is driven by Cooper-pair localization.
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We thank A. Finkel’stein, V. Kravtsov, M. Mézard, Z. Ovadyahu and N. Trivedi for valuable discussions. D.S. and M.O. acknowledge the Israeli Science Foundation and the Minerva Fund.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Sacépé, B., Dubouchet, T., Chapelier, C. et al. Localization of preformed Cooper pairs in disordered superconductors. Nature Phys 7, 239–244 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nphys1892
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