Are "Pinholes" the Cause of Excess Current in Superconducting Tunnel Junctions? A Study of Andreev Current in Highly Resistive Junctions

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T. Greibe, M.P.V. Stenberg, C.M. Wilson, T. Bauch, V.S. Shumeiko, and P. Delsing


Physical Review Letters 106

In highly resistive superconducting tunnel junctions, excess subgap current is usually observed and is often attributed to microscopic pinholes in the tunnel barrier. We have studied the subgap current in superconductor–insulator–superconductor (SIS) and superconductor–insulator–normal-metal (SIN) junctions. In Al/AlOx/Al junctions, we observed a decrease of 2 orders of magnitude in the current upon the transition from the SIS to the SIN regime, where it then matched theory. In Al/AlOx/Cu junctions, we also observed generic features of coherent diffusive Andreev transport in a junction with a homogenous barrier. We use the quasiclassical Keldysh-Green function theory to quantify single- and two-particle tunneling and find good agreement with experiment over 2 orders of magnitude in transparency. We argue that our observations rule out pinholes as the origin of the excess current.