Electronic spectroscopy based on electron tunneling gives access to the electronic Density of States (DoS) in conductive materials, and thus provides detailed information about their electronic properties.
We have developed a microscope in order to perform spatially resolved (10 nm) tunneling spectroscopy, with an unprecedented energy resolution (10 µeV), on individual nanocircuits. This machine combines an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM mode) together with a Scanning Tunneling Spectroscope (STS mode), and functions at very low temperatures (30mK). In the AFM mode, the sample topography is recorded using a piezoelectric quartz tuning fork, which allows locating and imaging nanocircuits. Tunneling can then be performed on conductive areas of the circuit.
With this microscope, we have measured the local DoS in a hybrid Superconductor-Normal metal-Superconductor (S-N-S) structure. In such circuit, the electronic properties of N and S are modified by the superconducting proximity effect. In particular, for short N wires, we have observed a minigap in the DoS of the N wire, independent of position. Moreover, when varying the superconducting phase difference between the S electrodes, we have measured the modification of the minigap, and its disappearance when the phase difference equals p.
Our experimental results for the DoS, and its dependences (with phase, position, N length) are quantitatively accounted for by the quasiclassical theory of superconductivity. Some predictions of this theory are observed for the first time.