Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dan Dessau

Second Advisor

Joel Ullom

Third Advisor

Kent Irwin


This thesis presents a systematic study of electron cooling with Normal-metal/insulator/superconductor (NIS) tunnel junctions. NIS refrigerators have an exciting potential to simplify 100 mK and 10 mK cryogenics. Rather than using an expensive dilution refrigerator, researchers will be able to use much simpler cryogenics to reach 300 mK and supplement them with mass fabricated thin-_lm NIS refrigerators to reach 100 mK and below.

The mechanism enabling NIS refrigeration is energy selective tunneling. Due to the gap in the superconducting density of states, only hot electrons tunnel from the normal-metal. Power is removed from the normal-metal, that same power and the larger IV power are both deposited in the superconductor. NIS refrigerators often cool less than theory predicts because of the power deposited in the superconductor returns to the normal-metal. When the superconductor temperature is raised, or athermal phonons due to quasiparticle recombination are absorbed in the normal-metal, refrigerator performance will be reduced. I studied the quasiparticle excitations in superconductors to develop the most complete thermal model of NIS refrigerators to date. I introduced overlayer quasiparticle traps, a new method for heatsinking the superconductor. I present measurements on NIS refrigerators with and without quasiparticle traps, to determine their effectiveness. This includes an NIS refrigerator that cools from 300 mK to 115 mK or lower, a large improvement over previous designs.

I also looked into reducing the power deposited in the superconductor, by choosing the transition temperature of the superconductor based upon the NIS refrigerator launch temperature. I performed a detailed study of the density of states of superconducting AlMn alloys, demonstrating that Mn impurities behave non-magnetically in Al due to resonant scattering. The density of states remains BCS-like, but my measurements show that the deviations from a BCS density of states harm cooling in NIS refrigerators.

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Physics Commons