The thermomagnetic instability in superconducting films with adjacent metal layer
Dendritic flux avalanches is a frequently encountered consequence of the thermomagnetic instability in type-II superconducting films. The avalanches, which are potentially harmful for superconductor-based devices, can be suppressed by an adjacent normal metal layer, even when the two layers are not in thermal contact. The suppression of the avalanches in this case is due to so-called magnetic braking, caused by eddy currents generated in the metal layer by propagating magnetic flux. We develop a theory of magnetic braking by analyzing coupled electrodynamics and heat flow in a superconductor-normal metal bilayer. The equations are solved by linearization and by numerical simulation of the avalanche dynamics. We find that in an uncoated superconductor, even a uniform thermomagnetic instability can develop into a dendritic flux avalanche. The mechanism is that a small non-uniformity caused by the electromagnetic non-locality induces a flux-flow hot spot at a random position. The hot spot quickly develops into a finger, which at high speeds penetrates into the superconductor, forming a branching structure. Magnetic braking slows the avalanches, and if the normal metal conductivity is sufficiently high, it can suppress the formation of the dendritic structure. During avalanches, the braking by the normal metal layer prevents the temperature from exceeding the transition temperature of the superconductor. Analytical criteria for the instability threshold are developed using the linear stability analysis. The criteria are found to match quantitatively the instability onsets obtained in simulations.