Brookhaven National Laboratory
High-energy gold ions impact the crystal surface from above at the sites indicated schematically by dashed circles. Measurement of the strength of superconductivity in this same field of view, as shown on the lower panel, reveals how the impact sites are the regions where the superconductivity is also annihilated. In additional studies, the scientists discovered that it is in these same regions that the strongest pinning of quantized vortices occurs, followed at higher magnetic fields by pinning at the single atom crystal damage sites. Pinning the vortices allows high current superconductivity to flow unimpeded through the rest of the sample.