Hybrid superconductor junctions with diluted PtNi ferromagnetic interlayer

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Physics, Stockholm University

Abstract: This thesis describes experimental investigation of thin films made of diluted Pt 1-x Ni x ferromagnet alloy and Nb-Pt 1-x -Nb Josephson junctions. Such Hybrid Superconductor-Ferromagnet (S-F) Structures are of significant interest because of the new physics involved and possible applications in low temperature and spintronic devices. In many cases, such devices require components with small monodomain ferromagnetic layers, which requires development of specific nano-fabrication techniques. Pt 1-x Ni x alloy is used as the ferromagnet layer due to very good solubility of the two components which results in homogeneous diluted ferromagnet. Systematic analysis of both chemical composition, and ferromagnetic properties of Pt 1-x Ni x thin films for Ni concentrations ranging between 0 and ~70 at.% is performed. The energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) technique is employed to study chemical composition of Pt 1-x Ni x thin films. To eliminate possible errors during EDS characterization, EDS is used with different electron beam energies, different electron beam incident angles and on the free standing Pt 0.59 Ni 0.41 flakes. Ferromagnetic properties of Pt 1-x Ni x thin films are analyzed by studying the anomalous Hall effect. The Curie temperature of Pt 1-x Ni x films decreases in a non-linear manner with the Ni concentration and has the onset at ~27 at.% of Ni. It is observed that the critical concentration of Ni is lower and the Curie temperature is higher than it had been observed early for the bulk PtNi alloys. The 3D Focused ion Beam Nanosculpturing is used to fabricate nanoscale S-F-S Josephson junctions providing the uniform, monodomain structure of the ferromagnet layer within the junction. The detailed studies of S-F-S Josephson junctions are carried out depending on the size of junction, thickness and composition of the ferromagnet layer. The obtained Fraunhofer modulation of the critical current as a function of in-plane magnetic field serves as evidence for uniformity of the junction properties and monodomain structure of ferromagnet layer. The junction critical current density decreases in spin glass state with increasing Ni concentration. In the ferromagnetic state the maximum current density of the junction starts to increase. The latter is attributed to switching into the pi state as a function of Ni concentration. Simultaneously it is observed that the critical current can completely disappear presumably as the result of stray fields from the F layer in contact leads. The Josephson junction is used as a phase sensitive detector for analysis of vortex states in mesoscopic superconductors. By changing the bias current at constant magnetic field the vortices can be manipulated and the system can be switched between two consecutive vortex states. A mesoscopic superconductor can thus act as a memory cell in which the junction is used both for reading and writing information (vortex).