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Superconducting YBa2Cu3O7–δ Nanocomposites Using Preformed ZrO2 Nanocrystals: Growth Mechanisms and Vortex Pinning Properties

Katrien De Keukeleere, Pablo Cayado, Alexander Meledin, Ferran Vallès, Jonathan De Roo, Hannes Rijckaert, Glenn Pollefeyt, Els Bruneel, Anna Palau, Mariona Coll, Susagna Ricart, Gustaaf Van Tendeloo, Teresa Puig, Xavier Obradors, Isabel Van Driessche. Advanced Electronic Materials. DOI: 10.1002/aelm.201600161

Although high temperature superconductors are promising for power applications, the production of low-cost coated conductors with high current densities—at high magnetic fields—remains challenging. A superior superconducting YBa2Cu3O7–δ nanocomposite is fabricated via chemical solution deposition (CSD) using preformed nanocrystals (NCs). Preformed, colloidally stable ZrO2 NCs are added to the trifluoroacetic acid based precursor solution and the NCs' stability is confirmed up to 50 mol% for at least 2.5 months. These NCs tend to disrupt the epitaxial growth of YBa2Cu3O7–δ, unless a thin seed layer is applied. A 10 mol% ZrO2 NC addition proved to be optimal, yielding a critical current density JC of 5 MA cm−2 at 77 K in self-field. Importantly, this new approach results in a smaller magnetic field decay of JC(H//c) for the nanocomposite compared to a pristine film. Furthermore, microstructural analysis of the YBa2Cu3O7–δ nanocomposite films reveals that different strain generation mechanisms may occur compared to the spontaneous segregation approach. Yet, the generated nanostrain in the YBa2Cu3O7–δ nanocomposite results in an improvement of the superconducting properties similar to the spontaneous segregation approach. This new approach, using preformed NCs in CSD coatings, can be of great potential for high magnetic field applications.

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