nature 27 January 2000
Nature 403, 398 - 401 (2000) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

Dynamic instabilities and memory effects in vortex matter


The magnetic flux line lattice in type II superconductors serves as a useful system in which to study condensed matter flow, as its dynamic properties are tunable. Recent studies have shown a number of puzzling phenomena associated with vortex motion, including: low-frequency noise and slow voltage oscillations; a history-dependent dynamic response, and memory of the direction, amplitude duration and frequency of the previously applied current; high vortex mobility for alternating current, but no apparent vortex motion for direct currents; and strong suppression of an a.c. response by small d.c. bias. Taken together, these phenomena are incompatible with current understanding of vortex dynamics. Here we report a generic mechanism that accounts for these observations. Our model, which is derived from investigations of the current distribution across single crystals of NbSe2, is based on a competition between the injection of a disordered vortex phase at the sample edges, and the dynamic annealing of this metastable disorder by the transport current. For an alternating current, only narrow regions near the edges are in the disordered phase, while for d.c. bias, most of the sample is in the disordered phase--preventing vortex motion because of more efficient pinning. The resulting spatial dependence of the disordered vortex system serves as an active memory of the previous history.

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