Tuning vortex fluctuations and the resistive transition in superconducting films with a thin overlayer


It is shown that the temperature of the resistive transition TrT_r of a superconducting film can be increased by a thin superconducting or normal overlayer. For instance, deposition of a highly conductive thin overlayer onto a dirty superconducting film can give rise to an "anti-proximity effect" which manifests itself in an initial increase of Tr(d2)T_r(d_2) with the overlayer thickness d2d_2 followed by a decrease of Tr(d2)T_r(d_2) at larger d2d_2. Such a nonmonotonic thickness dependence of Tr(d2)T_r(d_2) results from the interplay of the increase of a net superfluid density mitigating phase fluctuations and the suppression of the critical temperature TcT_c due to the conventional proximity effect. This behavior of Tr(d2)T_r(d_2) is obtained by solving the Usadel equations to calculate the temperature of the Berezinskii-Kosterletz-Thouless transition, and the temperature of the resistive transition due to thermally-activated hopping of single vortices in dirty bilayers. The theory incorporates relevant materials parameters such as thicknesses and conductivities of the layers, interface contact resistance between them and the subgap quasiparticle states which affect both phase fluctuations and the proximity effect suppression of TcT_c. The transition temperature TrT_r can be optimized by tuning the overlayer parameters, which can significantly weaken vortex fluctuations and nearly restore the mean-field critical temperature. The calculated behavior of Tr(d2)T_r(d_2) may explain the nonmonotonic dependence of Tr(d2)T_r(d_2) observed on (Ag, Au, Mg, Zn)-coated Bi films, Ag-coated Ga and Pb films or NbN and NbTiN films on AlN buffer layers. These results suggest that bilayers can be used as model systems for systematic investigations of optimization of fluctuations in superconductors

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