An Atomic-Scale Perspective of the Challenging Microstructure of YBa2Cu3O7−x Thin Films



Defects are ubiquitous in materials. In high-temperature superconductors (HTS), certain defects play an important role; by pinning quantized vortices in the presence of magnetic field, they enable dissipationless transport of high current densities. Therefore, determining the atomic structure of defects as well as understanding how they behave and interact is critical to control the physical properties of HTS. This chapter presents an in-depth look into the complex microstructure of YBa2Cu3O7−x, a paradigmatic HTS, at different length scales using aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM). Furthermore, a synergistic combination of aberration-corrected STEM imaging, electron energy loss spectroscopy, X-ray magnetic circular dichroism, and density-functional-theory calculations have recently revealed point defects, such as individual vacancies and complex vacancy clusters, which affect the host crystal structure on a single unit-cell level. One such defect consisting of a complex of copper and oxygen vacancies is also shown to induce dilute ferromagnetism in YBCO HTS, which opens a playground to study the interaction between the two highly antagonistic phenomena by atomic-scale control over these defects.


Superconductivity Magnetism High-temperature superconductors YBCO STEM-EELS XMCD DFT Microstructure Defects Oxygen vacancies 



Authors acknowledge the MICIN (NANOSELECT, DUARFS MAT2017-83468-R and MAT2014-51778- C2-1-R), Generalitat de Catalunya (2014SGR 753 and Xarmae), and the EU (EU-FP7 NMP-LA-2012-280432 EUROTAPES project). They also acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, through the “Severo Ochoa” Programme for Centres of Excellence in R&D (SEV-2015-0496). STEM imaging and analysis at 200 kV was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, and STEM imaging at 100 kV was conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, which is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. STEM imaging and analysis at 300 kV was conducted in the Laboratorio de Microscopías Avanzadas (LMA) at Instituto de Nanociencia de Aragón (INA) at the University of Zaragoza. J.G. also acknowledges the Ramón y Cajal program (RYC-2012-11709). The work at Washington University (S.T.H. and R.M.) was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) grant number DMR-1806147. This work used the computational resources of the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), which is supported by National Science Foundation grants ACI-1053575 and ACI-1548562.

The authors are grateful to all the collaborators who made this work possible over the years, especially to Teresa Puig, Xavier Obradors, Mariona Coll, Anna Palau, Anna Llordes, Juan Salafranca, Maria Varela, Juan Carlos Idrobo, Cesar Magen, Pablo Cayado, S. Manuel Valvidares, Pierluigi Gargiani, Eric Pellegrin, Javier. Herrero-Martin, Wolfgang Windl, Matt Chisholm, Sokrates T. Pantelides, and Stephen J. Pennycook.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SuperconductivityInstitut de Ciéncia de Materials de Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Escola Universitària Salesiana de Sarrià (EUSS)BarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Institute for Functional Imaging of Materials Oak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  4. 4.Materials Sciences and Technology Division Oak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Materials Science and Engineering, Washington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  6. 6.Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials ScienceWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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