Date Awarded

Winter 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




R. Alejandra Lukaszew

Committee Member

David S Armstrong

Committee Member

Seth A Aubin

Committee Member

Irina Novikova

Committee Member

J. Michael Klopf


Electron correlations are the root of many interesting phenomena in materials, including phase transitions such as superconductivity and insulator-to-metal transitions, which are of great interest both for scientific understanding and for many applications. Such phase transitions can often be tailored in thin films, in which the geometry of the material is limited in one dimension. By studying how the physical structure of a thin film affects its correlated electron response, it is possible to obtain useful insight into both the nature of the electron correlations present in the material and how to control them for various applications. Niobium, an elemental superconductor, has the highest critical temperature and lower critical field of the naturally-occurring superconductors, making it attractive for many applications, particularly in the superconducting radio frequency (SRF) community. Several niobium-based compounds are also superconductors of interest; while the bulk materials are fairly well-understood, there is still a great deal to learn regarding the effects of the microstructure of thin films of these materials on their superconducting properties. Another niobium compound, niobium dioxide, exhibits a phase transition from a room-temperature insulating state to a high-temperature metallic state. Such insulator-to-metal transitions are not well-understood, even in bulk, and there is a great deal of debate over the mechanism that drives them. Experimental studies on niobium dioxide thin films are still somewhat rare and thus have the potential to contribute a great deal to the understanding of the mechanisms behind the transition. This dissertation presents structure-property correlation studies on niobium and niobium compound superconducting thin films such as those discussed above, and also reports on the first experimental studies of the light-induced insulator-to-metal transition in niobium dioxide.




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