High-RRR thin-films of NB produced using energetic condensation from a coaxial, rotating vacuum ARC plasma (CEDTM)

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Conference Proceeding

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We have recently demonstrated unprecedentedly high values of RRR (up to 542) in thin-films of pure Nb deposited on a-plane sapphire and MgO crystal substrates. The Nb films were grown using a vacuum arc discharge struck between a reactor grade Nb cathode rod (RRR~30) and a coaxial, semi-transparent Mo mesh anode, with a heated substrate placed just outside it. The substrates were pre-heated for several hours prior to deposition at different temperatures. Low pre-heat temperatures (<300°C) and deposition temperatures (<300°C) give low RRR (<50) films, whereas higher pre-heat (700°C) and coating temperatures (500°C) give RRR=214 on a-sapphire and RRR=542 on MgO. XRD (Bragg-Brentano scans and Pole Figures), EBSD and SIMS data reveal several features: (1) on asapphire, higher temperatures show better 3D registry for epitaxial growth of Nb; the crystal structure evolves from textured, polycrystalline (with twins) to single-crystal; (2) on MgO, there is a transition from {110} planes to {100} as the temperature is increased beyond 500°C. The dramatic increase in RRR (from ~10 at <300°C to ~500 at >600°C) is correlated with better epitaxial crystal structure in both a-sapphire and MgO substrate grown films. However, the SIMS data reveal that the most important requirement for high-RRR Nb films on either substrate is the reduction of impurities in the film, especially hydrogen. The hydrogen content in the MgO grown films is 1000 times lower than in bulk Nb tested as a reference from SRF cavity grade Nb. This result has potential implications for SRF accelerators. Coating bulk Nb cavities with an MgO layer followed by our CEDTM deposited Nb films, might create superior SRF cavities that would avoid Q-slope and operate at higher peak fields. This research was supported by Department of Energy grants DE-SC0004994 and DE-FG02-08ER85162.