By means of the magneto-optical Faraday effect, flux-density distributions are observed in laser-ablated YBa2Cu3O7-δ thin films. The samples investigated are found to contain numerous defects of two different classes; (1) extended linear defects of weakly superconducting material and (2) small non-superconducting particles. The influence of these defects on the flux distributions is analyzed in detail using the concept of discontinuity lines of the currents [Th. Schuster et al. Phys. Rev. B 49 (1994) 3443]. The magneto-optical flux patterns clearly reveal that an application of a critical-state model to calculate the critical current density from magnetization data is impossible when a sample contains such defects. It is shown that even in the best samples the flux fronts are not homogeneous but consist of a large number of defect-induced parabolic flux plumes.
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