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Study of accessible ground states in two-dimensional disordered superconductors

Abstract : An initially superconducting 3D material can have different ground states, depending on its disorder : superconducting, metallic or insulating. At lower dimensionality, Anderson localization theoretically forbids any metallic state. A change in disorder then induces a direct Superconductor-to-Insulator Transition (SIT). The presence of strong Coulomb interactions, which are not taken into account in conventional theories, may disrupt this paradigm and enable the emergence of 2D metallic phases, thus complicating the generally admitted picture for the SIT. Indeed, recent work has revealed the existence of two distinct metallic phases in a-NbxSi1-x thin films, in between the superconducting and insulating states.During this work, we have studied the low frequency transport properties of amorphous NbxSi1-x films at low temperatures (T<1K), in order to characterize the evolution of their ground state with disorder. In our films, disorder has been tuned by varying the heat treatment temperature, the thickness or the composition. We have then focused on the destruction of these metallic states, giving rise to an insulating state. Through the analysis of conduction laws in the insulating regime, we have quantified the evolution of its properties – in particular its characteristic energies – as disorder is varied. We could then conclude that the insulating phase can essentially be accounted for by a fermionic model. At lower disorder level, in the 2D metallic phase neighboring the insulator, we have evidenced precursor signs of the insulating state which continuously evolve until and through the 2D Metal-to-Insulator Transition. We offer an interpretation of all our results implying the existence of two parallel channels which relative importance is determined by the sample disorder level : one is fermionic, the other governed by superconducting fluctuations which persist even when the macroscopic phase coherence is lost. The metallic state is then dominated by the latter, whereas, in the insulator, fermionic excitations prevail.In a second part, we report on the experimental development of a calibration device for the broadband reflectometry measurement of thin films at microwave frequencies (GHz) and low temperatures (T<4K). This apparatus aims at measuring, during a single cool down, the reflection of known references as well as of the sample. The obtained calibration enables to obtain the absolute value of the films complex impedance, independently of the microwave environment. The results obtained on superconducting Vanadium films, compared with theories of superconductivity, enabled a first validation of the setup and of its working principle. This calibration device is therefore operational to measure more complex systems, such as thin films in the vicinity of the SIT.
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Vincent Humbert. Study of accessible ground states in two-dimensional disordered superconductors. Disordered Systems and Neural Networks [cond-mat.dis-nn]. Université Paris Saclay (COmUE), 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016SACLS149⟩. ⟨tel-01373933⟩

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