Active control of superconductivity by means of the ferromagnetic exchange interaction
Recent theoretical studies have suggested that the observed suppression of superconductivity in superconductor/ferromagnet (S/F) heterostructures could be modulated by controlling the ferromagnetic exchange interaction in the superconductor. The exchange interaction in the superconductor is the sum of the exchange interaction from the ferromagnetic regions, which has a phase and magnitude that depends upon the direction that the ferromagnet is magnetised and the distance. As the exchange interaction has a phase it is possible that the contribution from two regions will cancel out. The exchange interaction, which can be viewed as an imbalance in the spin populations, suppresses superconductivity so any reduction in the exchange interaction will increase the superconducting transition temperature (Tc) of the heterostructure. Thus by changing the magnetisation of the ferromagnetic regions it is possible to control the exchange interaction in the superconductor and so the superconducting properties of the heterostructure. I have measured the superconducting properties of niobium/cobalt bilayers as a function of the applied magnetic field. I have observed that one component of the superconducting properties is controlled by the net magnetisation rather than the magnitude of the applied field. I have been able to show that this component of the observed change in the superconducting properties is not simply due to stray magnetic field but that the superconductivity is being actively controlled by means of the exchange interaction. This is the first experimental evidence that the superconducting properties of a S/F heterostructure can be controlled in this way, which opens up the possibilities for the construction of future devices.