Characterisation of the Specific Capacitance of Superconducting Tunnel Junctions
Licentiate thesis, 2015
Superconductor-Insulator-Superconductor (SIS) tunnel junctions are widely used as the mixing component in mm and sub-mm receivers for radio astronomy and environmental science. SIS mixers offer superior noise performance close to the quantum limit for frequencies up to 1 THz. An important property of an SIS junction is the intrinsic specific capacitance (Cs), which is defined by the geometrical capacitance (Cj) divided by the junction area (A). In order to prevent loss of the RF signal, a tuning circuitry is required to resonate out the Cj. The RF bandwidth of an SIS mixer is determined by the quality factor of the resulted resonator-like tuning circuitry, Q = ωRnCj, where Rn is the normal resistance of the junction and ω is the angular frequency. In order to increase the RF bandwidth of the mixer, junctions with lower specific resistance (RnA) and hence thinner insulator layer are required. For the practical SIS mixers, junctions with RnA < 100 Ω.µm2 (often as low as 20 Ω.µm2) are typically used. In this RnA range, the published data on the Cs vs. RnA are often spread and not consistent between different sources. Therefore, at this limit, the design of an accurate tuning circuitry becomes challenging. Hence, there is a well-recognized demand for accurate measurement of Cs.
So far, all the developed characterisation methods measured the specific capacitance effect indirectly, e.g., in a resonant circuit. In this context, the specific capacitance was extracted by fitting the measurement data into a theoretical model. In this thesis, a new method was developed, which directly measures the junction capacitance at microwave frequencies (1 - 7 GHz) with estimated uncertainty varying from ±2% to ±11% depending on the junction area. In this measurement method, an original calibration approach was suggested and implemented.
Using this method, the capacitance of 34 junctions with various RnA values ranging from 8 to 68 Ω.µm2 was measured. The observed scatter in the specific capacitance is discussed. We argue that, it is the tunnel barrier (thickness) nonuniformity, which is responsible for the observed spread of the Cs data. The nonlinear capacitance as a result of the Kramers-Kronig transformation of the dc IV characteristic of the SIS junction was shown to be a significant contribution for RnA < 40 Ω.µm2 even at frequencies as low as 1-7 GHz. The extracted specific capacitance from the measurements was corrected for the nonlinear capacitance. The obtained Cs(RnA) data agrees well with the model relation Cs = a/ln(RnA), where a =0.227 for the RnA < 40 Ω.µm2.
Superconductor-Insulator-Superconductor tunnel junctions