Quantum Griffiths singularity of superconductor-metal transition in Ga thin films

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Science  30 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6260, pp. 542-545
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7154

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Cooling to see the effects of disorder

In sufficiently strong external magnetic fields, thin superconducting films typically become insulating. The presence of disorder can affect this phase transition. Theorists have proposed that disorder can cause the so-called Griffiths singularity, where the behavior of the system is determined by a small number of superconducting islands that form above the critical magnetic field. Xing et al. observed a signature of such a singularity in thin films of gallium by analyzing transport data taken at very low temperatures (see the Perspective by Markovic). In this regime, thermal fluctuations were not strong enough to homogenize the system, which allowed the rare islands to form.

Science, this issue p. 542; see also p. 509


The Griffiths singularity in a phase transition, caused by disorder effects, was predicted more than 40 years ago. Its signature, the divergence of the dynamical critical exponent, is challenging to observe experimentally. We report the experimental observation of the quantum Griffiths singularity in a two-dimensional superconducting system. We measured the transport properties of atomically thin gallium films and found that the films undergo superconductor-metal transitions with increasing magnetic field. Approaching the zero-temperature quantum critical point, we observed divergence of the dynamical critical exponent, which is consistent with the Griffiths singularity behavior. We interpret the observed superconductor-metal quantum phase transition as the infinite-randomness critical point, where the properties of the system are controlled by rare large superconducting regions.

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