Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Physics


Dr. John S. Preston


The discovery of high temperature superconducting (HTS) materials having a critical temperature above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen has generated a large amount of interest in both the basic and applied scientific communities. Considerable research effort has been expended in developing HTS microwave devices, since thin film, passive, microwave components will likely be the first area to be successfully commercialized.

This thesis describes a new thin film HTS microwave device that can be operated as a switch or as a continuously variable attenuator. It is well suited for low power analog signal control applications and can easily be integrated with other HTS devices. Due to its small size and mass, the device is expected to find application as a receiver protection switch or as an automatic gain control element, both used in satellite communications receivers. The device has a very low insertion loss, and the isolation in the OFF state is continuously variable to 25 dB. With minor modifications, an isolation exceeding 50 dB is readily achievable. A patent application for the device has been filed, with the patent rights assigned to COM DEV.

The device is based on an unusual non-linear response in HTS materials. Under a non-zero DC voltage bias, the current through a superconducting bridge is essentially voltage independent. We have proposed a thermal instability to account for this behaviour. Thermal modelling in conjunction with direct temperature measurements were used to confirm the validity of the model.

We have developed a detailed model explaining the microwave response of the device. The model accurately predicts the microwave attenuation as a function of the applied DC control voltage and fully explains the device operation. A key feature is that the device acts as a pure resistive element at microwave frequencies, with no reactance. The resistance is continuously variable, controlled by the DC bias voltage. This distinguishes it from a PIN diode, since PIN diodes have a capacitive reactance that limits their frequency range.

Measurements made to confirm the microwave model validity resulted in the development of a new cryogenic de-embedding technique. The technique allows accurate microwave measurements to be made on devices at cryogenic temperatures using only room temperature calibration standards. We have also investigated the effect of kinetic inductance on coplanar waveguide transmission lines, and indicate under what conditions kinetic inductance must be considered in transmission line design.

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