05. Mechanics of individual isolated vortices in a cuprate superconductor

Ophir M Auslaender, Lan Luan, Eric WJ Straver, Jennifer E Hoffman, Nicholas C Koshnick, Eli Zeldov, Douglas A Bonn, Ruixing Liang, Walter N Hardy, Kathryn A Moler

Nature Physics, 5, 35 (2009)

Superconductors often contain quantized microscopic whirlpools of electrons, called vortices, that can be modelled as one-dimensional elastic objects1. Vortices are a diverse area of study for condensed matter because of the interplay between thermal fluctuations, vortex–vortex interactions and the interaction of the vortex core with the three-dimensional disorder landscape2,3,4,5. Although vortex matter has been studied extensively1,6,7, the static and dynamic properties of an individual vortex have not. Here, we use magnetic force microscopy (MFM) to image and manipulate individual vortices in a detwinned YBa2Cu3O6.991 single crystal, directly measuring the interaction of a moving vortex with the local disorder potential. We find an unexpected and marked enhancement of the response of a vortex to pulling when we wiggle it transversely. In addition, we find enhanced vortex pinning anisotropy that suggests clustering of oxygen vacancies in our sample and demonstrates the power of MFM to probe vortex structure and microscopic defects that cause pinning.