Dimensional crossover and incipient quantum size effects in superconducting niobium nanofilms

Sci Rep. 2018 Mar 16;8(1):4710. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22983-6.


Superconducting and normal state properties of Niobium nanofilms have been systematically investigated as a function of film thickness, on different substrates. The width of the superconducting-to-normal transition for all films is remarkably narrow, confirming their high quality. The superconducting critical current density exhibits a pronounced maximum for thickness around 25 nm, marking the 3D-to-2D crossover. The magnetic penetration depth shows a sizeable enhancement for the thinnest films. Additional amplification effects of the superconducting properties have been obtained with sapphire substrates or squeezing the lateral size of the nanofilms. For thickness close to 20 nm we measured a doubled perpendicular critical magnetic field compared to its large thickness value, indicating shortening of the correlation length and the formation of small Cooper pairs. Our data analysis indicates an exciting interplay between quantum-size and proximity effects together with strong-coupling effects and the importance of disorder in the thinnest films, placing these nanofilms close to the BCS-BEC crossover regime.