Resistivity and the solid-to-liquid transition in high-temperature superconductors

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: In high-temperature superconductors a large region of the magnetic phase diagram is occupied by a vortex phase that displays a number of exciting phenomena. At low temperatures, vortices form a truly superconducting solid phase which at high temperatures turns into a dissipative vortex liquid. The character of the transition between these two phases depends on the amount and type of disorder present in the system. For weak point disorder the vortex solid-to-liquid transition is a first-order melting. In the presence of strong point disorder the solid is thought to be a vortex-glass and the transition into the liquid is instead of second order. When the disorder is correlated, like twin boundaries or artificially introduced columnar defects, the transition is also second order, but has essentially different properties. In this work, the transition between the solid and liquid phases of the vortex state has been studied by resistive transport measurements in mainly YBa2Cu3O7-[delta](YBCO) single crystals with different types of disorder.The vortex-glass transition has been investigated in an extended model for the vortex-liquid resistivity close to the transition that takes into account both the temperature and magnetic field dependence of the transition line. The resistivity of samples with different properties was measured with various contact configurations at several magnetic fields and analyzed within this model. For each sample, attempts were made to scale the transition curves to one curve according to a suitable scaling variable predicted by the model. Good scaling was found in a number of different situations. The influence of increasing anisotropy and angular dependence of the magnetic field in the model were also considered.The vortex solid-to-liquid transition was also studied in heavy-ion irradiated YBCO single crystals. The ions create columnar defects in the sample that act as correlated disorder. A magnetic field was applied at a tilt angle with respect to the direction of the columns. At the transition the resistance disappears as a power law with different exponents in the three orthogonal directions considered. This provides evidence for a new type of critical behavior with fully anisotropic critical scaling properties not previously found in any physical system.The effect on the vortex solid-to-liquid transition of high magnetic fields applied parallel to the superconducting layers of underdoped YBCO single crystals was also studied. Some novel features were observed: a sharp kink appearing close to Tc at high magnetic fields and a triple dip in the angular dependence of the resistivity close to B||ab in some regions of the phase diagram.