Theory of proximity effect in superconductor/ferromagnet heterostructures

Research paper by A. Bagrets, C. Lacroix, A. Vedyayev

Indexed on: 02 Apr '03Published on: 02 Apr '03Published in: Physics - Superconductivity


We present a microscopic theory of proximity effect in the ferromagnet/superconductor/ferromagnet (F/S/F) nanostructures where S is s-wave low-T_c superconductor and F's are layers of 3d transition ferromagnetic metal. Our approach is based on the solution of Gor'kov equations for the normal and anomalous Green's functions together with a self-consistent evaluation of the superconducting order parameter. We take into account the elastic spin-conserving scattering of the electrons assuming s-wave scattering in the S layer and s-d scattering in the F layers. In accordance with the previous quasiclassical theories, we found that due to exchange field in the ferromagnet the anomalous Green's function F(z) exhibits the damping oscillations in the F-layer as a function of distance z from the S/F interface. In the given model a half of period of oscillations is determined by the length \xi_m^0 = \pi v_F/E_ex, where v_F is the Fermi velocity and E_ex is the exchange field, while damping is governed by the length l_0 = (1/l_{\uparrow} + 1/l_{\downarrow})^{-1} with l_{\uparrow} and l_{\downarrow} being spin-dependent mean free paths in the ferromagnet. The superconducting transition temperature T_c(d_F) of the F/S/F trilayer shows the damping oscillations as a function of the F-layer thickness d_F with period \xi_F = \pi/\sqrt{m E_ex}, where m is the effective electron mass. We show that strong spin-conserving scattering either in the superconductor or in the ferromagnet significantly suppresses these oscillations. The calculated T_c(d_F) dependences are compared with existing experimental data for Fe/Nb/Fe trilayers and Nb/Co multilayers.