First-principles methods were used to understand magnetic flux trapping at vacancies, dislocations, and grain boundaries in high-purity superconducting niobium. Full-potential linear augmented plane-wave methods were applied in progressively greater complexity, starting at simple vacancies and extending to screw dislocations and tilt grain boundaries to analyze the effects of magnetic field on the superconducting state surrounding these defects. Density-functional theory calculations identified changes in electronic structure at the dislocation core and different types of symmetric tilt grain boundaries relative to bulk niobium. Electron redistribution enhanced nonparamagnetic effects and thus perturb superconductivity, resulting in local conditions suitable for premature flux penetration and subsequently flux pinning. Since the coherence length of superconducting niobium at 0 K is significantly larger than the lattice parameter, the effects of line and planar defects in niobium are predicted to be stronger for defect clusters than single defects in isolation, which is consistent with recent experimental observations. Controlling accumulation or depletion of charge at the defects, e.g., by segregation of an impurity atom, can mitigate these tendencies thus increasing the quality of superconducting niobium.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics