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Electron Microscopy Imaging of Flux Pinning Defects in YBCO Superconductors

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posted on 16.11.2021, 01:22 by Puichaud, Anne-Hélène

High-temperature superconductors are of great interest because they can transport electrical current without loss. For real-world applications, the amount of current, known as the critical current Ic, that can be carried by superconducting wires is the key figure of merit. Large Ic values are necessary to off-set the higher cost of these wires. The factors that improve Ic (microstructure/performance relationship) in the state-of-the-art coated conductor wires based on YBa₂Cu₃O₇ (YBCO) are not fully understood. However, microstructural defects that immobilise (or pin) tubes of magnetic flux (known as vortices) inside the coated conductors are known to play a role in improving Ic. In this thesis, the vortex-defect interaction in YBCO superconductors was investigated with high-end transmission electron microscopy (TEM) techniques using two approaches.  First, the effect of dysprosium (Dy) addition and oxygenation temperature on the microstructure and critical current were investigated in detail. Changing only the oxygenation temperature leads to many microstructural changes in pure YBCO coated conductors. It was found that Dy addition reduces the sensitivity of the YBCO to the oxygenation temperature, in particular it lowers the microstructural disorder while maintaining the formation of nanoparticles, which both contribute to the enhancement of Ic.  In the second approach, two TEM based techniques (off-axis electron holography and Lorentz microscopy) were used to study the magnetic flux vortices. Vortex imaging was attempted with a TEM operated at 300 kV on both a YBCO crystal as well as a YBCO coated conductor. Many challenges were encountered including sample preparation, inhomogeneity, and geometry, in addition to the need to perform measurements at cryogenic temperatures. Although vortices were not able to be observed in the coated conductors, tentative observation of vortices in a YBCO crystal was made using Lorentz microscopy. Improvements for future electron holography experiments on YBCO at low voltage are suggested. This work represents a pioneering step towards directly imaging vortices in YBCO using more widely available microscopes with the aim of better understanding flux pinning to ultimately boost Ic in superconducting wires.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Macdiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Alternative Title

Electron Microscopy Imaging of Pinning Defects in YBCO

Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Chemical and Physical Sciences


Knibbe, Ruth; Wimbush, Stuart