Grain boundaries in coated conductors

Marcus, Weigand 

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The excitement which followed the discovery of high-temperature superconductors in 1986 was short-lived, as it became clear that their current carrying capacity (the critical current density Jc) was limited by grain boundaries (GBs). In order to reduce their detrimental effects coated conductors have been developed, in which a superconducting thin film is deposited on a polycrystalline, textured substrate. Within certain temperature and magnetic field ranges, however, GBs still limit the overall Jc. This fact motivated the present thesis, for which the electrical properties of different types of coated conductors, and in particular their GBs, were investigated. Several GBs and a single grain were isolated in a tape produced by metal-organic deposition (MOD), using a novel approach based on electron backscatter diffraction and a focused ion beam microscope. Measurements of their critical current densities for fields swept in the film plane showed the expected decrease with increasing misorientation angle at low fields. At higher fields an angle dependent crossover was found, from a GB to grain limited Jc. In order to confirm this result and put it into broader perspective, the dependence of Jc on the width of polycrystalline tracks was studied, and then explained in terms of the behaviour of the single GBs. Investigations using low-temperature scanning laser microscopy rounded out the picture, which also showed GB dissipation at certain angles and grain limitation at others. In measurements on samples produced by metal-organic chemical vapour deposition (MOCVD) characteristic differences compared to the MOD film were found. While both conductors exhibited high values of Jc, the variation with in-plane angle was significantly stronger for the MOCVD conductor, which can be explained by its sharper texture. In a track patterned perpendicular to the tape direction the phenomenon of vicinal channelling was observed, which previously was known only from films on single crystal substrates. Finally, an isolated boundary showed very high values of Jc, consistent with its low misorientation. In order to better understand how the substrate influences the superconducting properties, measurements were carried out on otherwise identical samples grown on different substrates. A tape with grains elongated along its rolling direction showed particularly good properties at all examined field orientations. This extends the previously reported result that high aspect ratios are beneficial at fields applied perpendicular to the tape plane.

Durrell, JH
High-temperature superconductors, YBCO
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge