The Preparation of a Challenging Superconductor Nb 3 Al by Exploiting Nano Effect
The Nb 3 Al superconductor with excellent physical and working properties is one of the most promising materials in high-magnetic-field applications. However, it is difficult to prepare high-quality Nb 3 Al with a desired superconducting transition temperature ( T c ) because of its narrow phase formation area at high temperatures (>1940 °C). This work reports a method to prepare stoichiometric Nb 3 Al powder samples at a relatively low temperature (1400 °C) by exploiting the nano effect of Nb particles with pretreatment of Nb powder under H 2 /Ar atmosphere. The obtained Nb 3 Al samples exhibit high T c ’s of ~16.8K. Based on density functional theory (DFT) calculations and statistical mechanics analysis, the crucial role of quantum effect in leading to the success of the preparation method was studied. A new measure of surface energy (MSE) of a model particle is introduced to study its size and face dependence. A rapid convergence of the MSE with respect to the size indicates a quick approach to the solid limit, while the face dependence of MSE reveals a liquid-like behavior. The surface effect and quantum fluctuation of the Nb n clusters explain the success of the preparation method.