Superconductors have two key characteristics: they expel magnetic field and they conduct electrical current with zero resistance. However, both properties are compromised in high magnetic fields, which can penetrate the material and create a mixed state of quantized vortices. The vortices move in response to an electrical current, dissipating energy and destroying the zero-resistance state. One of the central problems for applications of high-temperature superconductivity is the stabilization of vortices to ensure zero electrical resistance. We find that vortices in the anisotropic superconductor Bi2Sr2CaCu2O8+ (Bi-2212) have a phase transition from a liquid state, which is inherently unstable, to a two-dimensional vortex solid. We show that at high field the transition temperature is independent of magnetic field, as was predicted theoretically for the melting of an ideal two-dimensional vortex lattice. Our results indicate that the stable solid phase can be reached at any field, as may be necessary for applications involving superconducting magnets. The vortex solid is disordered, as suggested by previous studies at lower fields. But its evolution with increasing magnetic field exhibits unexpected threshold behaviour that needs further investigation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)