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The lateral proximity effect and long-range energy-gap gradients in Ta/Al and Nb/Al Josephson junctions

The lateral proximity effect and long-range energy-gap gradients in Ta/Al and Nb/Al Josephson junctions

Publication date: 15 January 2000

Authors: den Hartog, R., et al.

Journal: Proc. 8th International Workshop on Low Temperature Detectors
Year: 2000

We present two independent experiments, each of which suggests that the local energy gap in Ta (and Nb) has a lateral spatial variation on a scale of several micron. The first experiment is a series of current-voltage characterizations of Nb/Al/AlOx and Ta/Al/AlOx Josephson junctions, which reveals a dependence of the measured energy gap on the size of the junction. This implies a geometrical dependence of the energy gap. An extended version of the current theory of the proximity effect could explain this phenomenon when a lateral coherence length is introduced, which is of the order of the bulk coherence length of the materials. The second experiment is a series of coincidence measurements of photon absorption events in a Ta absorber between two Ta/Al junctions. There is a clear distinction in the pulse-height characteristics between events detected in the absorber and the junctions. Interestingly, there are also events indicating the presence of a transition region between the absorber and the junction. Event statistics imply that this region has a size of ~6 micron, independent of photon energy, which is quite a bit larger than even the bulk coherence length in Ta. It is argued that an additional effect due to 'smearing' by the relaxed quasi-particle cloud must also be present. These effects are interesting and intriguing; not only from a theoretical viewpoint, but also for energy-gap engineering of superconducting materials for practical applications, e.g. in a variety of photon and particle detectors.

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