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Micrometer-sized Al/AlO x /Y tunnel junctions were fabricated by the electron-beam lithography technique. The thin (≈ 1.5–2 nm thickness) insulating AlO x layer was grown on top of the Al base electrode by O2glow discharge. The zero-bias conductancesG(T) and the current-voltage characteristics of the junctions were measured in a wide temperature range 1.5–300 K. In addition to the direct tunnelingconduction mechanism observed in low-Gjunctions, high-Gjunctions reveal a distinct charge transport process which manifests the thermally fluctuation-induced tunnelingconduction (FITC) through short nanoconstrictions. We ascribe the experimental realization of the FITC mechanism to originating from the formations of “hot spots” (incomplete pinholes) in the AlO x layer owing to large junction-barrier interfacial roughness.


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