In their original formulation of superconductivity, the London brothers predicted1 the exponential suppression of an electrostatic field inside a superconductor over the so-called London penetration depth2,3,4, λL. Despite a few experiments indicating hints of perturbation induced by electrostatic fields5,6,7, no clue has been provided so far on the possibility to manipulate metallic superconductors via the field effect. Here, we report field-effect control of the supercurrent in all-metallic transistors made of different Bardeen–Cooper–Schrieffer superconducting thin films. At low temperature, our field-effect transistors show a monotonic decay of the critical current under increasing electrostatic field up to total quenching for gate voltage values as large as ±40 V in titanium-based devices. This bipolar field effect persists up to ~85% of the critical temperature (~0.41 K), and in the presence of sizable magnetic fields. A similar behaviour is observed in aluminium thin-film field-effect transistors. A phenomenological theory accounts for our observations, and points towards the interpretation in terms of an electric-field-induced perturbation propagating inside the superconducting film. In our understanding, this affects the pairing potential and quenches the supercurrent. These results could represent a groundbreaking asset for the realization of all-metallic superconducting field-effect electronics and leading-edge quantum information architectures8,9.
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The authors thank J. E. Hirsch for comments, and for drawing attention to relevant questions on key issues related to superconductivity so far considered well established. A. Braggio is acknowledged for a careful reading of the manuscript and for comments. J.S. Moodera, A. Shanenko and P. Virtanen are thanked for discussions. The authors acknowledge the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement no. 615187-COMANCHE, and MIUR-FIRB2013–Project Coca (grant no. RBFR1379UX) for partial financial support. The work of G.D.S. and F.P. was funded by the Tuscany Region under the FARFAS 2014 project SCIADRO. The work of E.S. was partially funded by the Marie Curie Individual Fellowship MSCAIFEF-ST no. 660532-SuperMag. P.S. received funding from the European Union FP7/2007–2013 under REA grant agreement no. 630925-COHEAT.