Superconductivity Modulated by Quantum Size Effects

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Science  10 Dec 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5703, pp. 1915-1917
DOI: 10.1126/science.1105130

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We have fabricated ultrathin lead films on silicon substrates with atomic-scale control of the thickness over a macroscopic area. We observed oscillatory behavior of the superconducting transition temperature when the film thickness was increased by one atomic layer at a time. This oscillating behavior was shown to be a manifestation of the Fabry-Pérot interference modes of electron de Broglie waves (quantum well states) in the films, which modulate the electron density of states near the Fermi level and the electron-phonon coupling, which are the two factors that control superconductivity transitions. This result suggests the possibility of modifying superconductivity and other physical properties of a thin film by exploiting well-controlled and thickness-dependent quantum size effects.

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