Loughborough University
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Development of superconducting thin films for use in SRF cavity applications

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posted on 2018-08-23, 11:56 authored by Stuart Wilde
Superconducting thin films are a possible alternative to bulk niobium for superconducting radio frequency cavity applications. Thin film cavities have produced larger Q0 than bulk niobium at low accelerating voltages [1], are less susceptible to external magnetic fields and therefore require less magnetic shielding than bulk niobium cavities [2] and can benefit from substrates which conduct heat more effectively than bulk niobium [3]. The major drawback for current thin film cavity technology is the large Q slope which is observed above accelerating gradients of 6 7 MV/m. The mechanism for the Q slope is not yet fully understood. Theories have been suggested but are not accepted by everyone within the scientific community [2, 4, 5, 6, 7]. It is assumed that a better understanding of the physical properties of superconducting films is required before the origins of the sharp Q slope can be elucidated. This study has been conducted to better understand the physical properties of superconducting thin films deposited by the magnetron sputtering process. In particular, superconducting niobium films have been deposited by high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) and tested by a wide range of analytical techniques as a function of the substrate temperature and applied bias during deposition. Analytical techniques which have been used include x-ray diffraction crystallography, Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, residual resistance ratio, DC magnetometry and RF surface resistance measurements. Results showed that the application of an applied bias during deposition resulted in increased energy of bombarding ions and enhanced rates of surface diffusion and defect annihilation within the microstructure of a growing niobium film. However, large numbers of random complex defects formed once the energy of bombarding ions becomes too large. The systematic approach that was described to investigate the changing morphological and DC superconducting properties of deposited films, as a function of the applied bias, allowed the identification of which process conditions produce the fewest random complex defects. The same systematic investigations could be applied to any HiPIMS deposition facility to provide similar results. An important observation during the study is that the initial substrate conditions have a large influence on the properties of a deposited niobium film. Niobium films deposited onto polycrystalline copper substrate that was pre-annealed at 700 ˚C prior to deposition displayed more stable magnetic flux pinning, larger RRR and an enhanced resistance to the onset of flux penetration, than was observed for films deposited with a wide range of process conditions onto as received copper substrate. Superconductors other than niobium have been successfully deposited by HiPIMS and tested. Niobium titanium nitride thin films displayed a superconducting transition temperature up to 16.7 K, with a normal state resistivity as small as 45±7 μΩcm. The findings suggest that similar niobium titanium nitride thin films could produce smaller RF surface resistance than bulk niobium cavities at 4.2 K.





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© Stuart Wilde

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.