The successful incorporation of Ag into single grain, Y-Ba-Cu-O bulk superconductors

09 Mar 2018

The use of RE-Ba-Cu-O [(RE)BCO] bulk superconductors, where RE=Y, Gd, Sm, in practical applications is, at least in part, limited by their mechanical properties and brittle nature, in particular. Alloying these materials with silver, however, produces a significant improvement in strength without any detrimental impact on their superconducting properties. Unfortunately, the top seeded melt growth (TSMG) technique, used routinely to process bulk (RE)BCO superconductors in the form of large, single grains required for practical applications, is complex and has a large number of inter-related variables, so the addition of silver increases the complexity of the growth process even further. This can make successful growth of this system extremely challenging. Here we report measurements of the growth rate of YBCO-Ag fabricated using a new growth technique consisting of continuous cooling and isothermal hold (CCIH) process. The resulting data form the basis of a model that has been used to derive suitable heating profiles for the successful single grain growth of YBCO-Ag bulk superconductors of up to 26 mm in diameter. The microstructure and distribution of silver within these samples have been studied in detail. The maximum trapped field at the top surface of the bulk YBCO-Ag samples has been found to be comparable to that of standard YBCO processed without Ag. The YBCO-Ag samples also exhibit a much more uniform trapped field profile compared to that of YBCO.