Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Applied Science


Michael Kelley


Niobium cavities are important components in modern particle accelerators based on superconducting radio frequency (SRF) technology. The interior of SRF cavities are cleaned and polished in order to produce high accelerating field and low power dissipation on the cavity wall. Current polishing methods, buffered chemical polishing (BCP) and electropolishing (EP), have their advantages and limitations. We seek to improve current methods and explore laser polishing (LP) as a greener alternative of chemical methods. The topography and removal rate of BCP at different conditions (duration, temperature, sample orientation, flow rate) was studied with optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD). Differential etching on different crystal orientations is the main contributor to fine grain niobium BCP topography, with gas evolution playing a secondary role. The surface of single crystal and bi-crystal niobium is smooth even after heavy BCP. The topography of fine grain niobium depends on total removal. The removal rate increases with temperature and surface acid flow rate within the rage of 0~20 °C, with chemical reaction being the possible dominate rate control mechanism. Surface flow helps to regulate temperature and avoid gas accumulation on the surface. The effect of surface flow rate on niobium EP was studied with optical microscopy, atomic force microscopy (AFM), and power spectral density (PSD) analysis. Within the range of 0~3.7 cm/s, no significant difference was found on the removal rate and the macro roughness. Possible improvement on the micro roughness with increased surface flow rate was observed. The effect of fluence and pulse accumulation on niobium topography during LP was studied with optical microscopy, SEM, AFM, and PSD analysis. Polishing on micro scale was achieved within fluence range of 0.57~0.90 J/cm 2, with pulse accumulation adjusted accordingly. Larger area treatment was proved possible by overlapping laser tracks at proper ratio. Comparison of topography and PSD indicates that LP smooths the surface in a way similar to EP. The optimized LP parameters were applied to different types of niobium surfaces representing different stages in cavity fabrication. LP reduces the sharpness on rough surfaces effectively, while doing no harm to smooth surfaces. Secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS) analysis showed that LP reduces the oxide layer slightly and no contamination occurred from LP. EBSD showed no significant change on crystal structure after LP.



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