Transport behavior across the field-driven superconductor-insulator transition in amorphous indium oxide films
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Superconductor-insulator transition (SIT) in two-dimensional (2D) thin films is a beautiful realization of a zero temperature quantum phase transition (QPT) and has been explored both theoretically and experimentally over the last two decades. In addition to the several intrinsic ways (such as thickness) of tuning the transition, external magnetic field has been used to tune from one ground state to another in various condensed matter systems. Amorphous indium oxide thin films, with their unique capability of tuning the disorder level in the system easily, have been proven to be an excellent model system to study the transport mechanisms near and across the SIT in 2D. In this thesis, magnetic field-driven SIT in 2D films of amorphous InO x is studied. The goal of this work is to understand the microscopic transport mechanisms responsible for driving the SIT when the magnetic field direction is continually varied from being perpendicular to the sample plane to parallel. Applying a perpendicular magnetic field resulting in a clear field-driven SIT and a magneto-resistance peak on the insulating side in InO x films have been previously understood in a bosonic picture put forward by M. P. A. Fisher and coworkers. However, this boson-vortex duality picture is expected to give rise to markedly different transport characteristics when the magnetic field is applied parallel to the sample plane. Features found in the parallel-field transport data however can also be explained by the bosonic picture, thereby questioning the applicability of the hitherto successful models to the physics of SIT. An isotropic magnetic field value, where the sample has the exact same resistance irrespective of the angle between the sample plane and magnetic field direction, is found. This isotropic point lies at field values above the critical field (B c ) of the SIT (in both perpendicular and parallel configurations) and above the magnetoresistance peak. The isotropic point is very weakly dependent on disorder levels and is temperature-independent. These observations suggest a possible fermionic role in the conduction near the quantum critical point of the SIT and would require newer models to be developed to completely understand the physics. Current-voltage characteristics measured in superconducting samples (below B c ) show that the true superconducting behavior (with a critical current to conduction) appears only in the B = 0 limit. Especially, application of a small magnetic field (∼ 0.2 T) drives the system into a flux flow regime and hence dissipative. The role of this dissipative channel in the superconducting phase in driving the SIT is not well understood. Competing roles of dissipation and bosonic mechanisms need to be treated simultaneously to decipher the underlying physics. When magnetic field is applied to a mesoscopic scale superconducting film, the film breaks into puddles of superconductors and insulators, thereby suggesting percolation-type transport behavior near the quantum critical point. Interestingly, the nonuniform nature of conduction occurs only in magnetic fields below and above B c at very low temperature below ∼ 400 mK and the sample is completely homogeneous at B c . A complete understanding of the scale of inhomogeneous regions and their role in driving the QPT are still unclear. And the results presented suggest that more experimental and theoretical efforts are needed for understanding the physics near the QPT clearly.