Journal of Applied Electrochemistry

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 721–730 | Cite as

Buffered electrochemical polishing of niobium

  • Gianluigi Ciovati
  • Hui Tian
  • Sean G. Corcoran
Original Paper


The standard preparation of superconducting radio-frequency (SRF) cavities made of pure niobium include the removal of a “damaged” surface layer, by buffered chemical polishing (BCP) or electropolishing (EP), after the cavities are formed. The performance of the cavities is characterized by a sharp degradation of the quality factor at high surface magnetic field, a phenomenon referred to as “Q-drop”. In some cases, the Q-drop can be significantly reduced by a low-temperature (~120 °C) “in situ” baking of the cavity. As part of the effort to understand this phenomenon, the effect of introducing a polarization potential during BCP, creating a process which is between the standard BCP and EP, was investigated. The focus of this contribution is on the characterization of this novel electrochemical process by measuring polarization curves, etching rates, surface finish, and electrochemical impedance. In particular, it is shown that the anodic potential of Nb during BCP has a plateau region in the polarization curve and the impedance diagrams on the plateau can be described with a “surface charge” model found in the literature. By applying an anodic potential to Nb, a lower etching rate and better the surface finish than by standard BCP process have been obtained.


Niobium Electrodes Electropolishing Etching 



The authors would like to acknowledge O. Trofimova of the College of William and Mary for helping with the optical microscope and AFM measurements. This research was conducted at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, operated by Jefferson Science Associates, LLC under U.S. DOE Contract No. DE-AC05-06OR23177. The U.S. Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce this manuscript for U.S. Government purposes.


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Copyright information

© U.S. Government 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gianluigi Ciovati
    • 1
  • Hui Tian
    • 1
  • Sean G. Corcoran
    • 2
  1. 1.Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator FacilityNewport NewsUSA
  2. 2.Materials Science & Engineering DepartmentVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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