Superconducting Proximity Effect in Single-Crystal Nanowires



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This dissertation describes experimental studies of the superconducting proximity effect in single-crystal Pb, Sn, and Zn nanowires of lengths up to 60 um, with both ends of the nanowires in contact with macroscopic electrodes that are either superconducting (Sn or Pb) or non-superconducting (Au). The Pb, Sn, and Zn nanowires are fabricated using a template-based electrochemical deposition method. Electric contacts to the nanowires are formed in situ during electrochemical growth. This method produces high transparency contacts between a pair of macroscopic electrodes and a single nanowire, circumventing the formation of oxide or other poorly conducting interface layers. Extensive analyses of the structure and the composition of the nanowire samples are presented to demonstrate that (1) the nanowires are single crystalline and (2) the nanowires are clean without any observable mixing of the materials from the electrodes. The nanowires being investigated are significantly longer than the nanowires with which electrode-induced superconductivity was previously investigated by other groups. We have observed that in relatively short (~6 um) Sn and Zn nanowires, robust superconductivity is induced at the superconducting transition temperatures of the electrodes. When Sn and Pb nanowires are in contact with a pair of Au electrodes, superconductivity is suppressed completely. For nanowires of 60 um in length, although the suppression of superconductivity by Au electrodes is only partial, the induced superconductivity at the higher transition temperatures of the electrodes remains full and robust. Therefore, an anomalous superconducting proximity effect has been observed on a length scale which far exceeds the expected length based on the existing theories of the proximity effect. The measured current-voltage characteristic of the nanowires reveals more details such as hysteresis, multiple Andreev reflection, and phase-slip centers. An interesting relation between the proximity effect and the residual-resistance-ratio of the nanowires has also been observed. Possible mechanisms for this proximity effect are discussed based on these experimental observations.