Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Committee Director

Mileta M. Tomović

Committee Director

Gene J.-W. Hou

Committee Member

Han P. Bao

Committee Member

Miltiadis D. Kotinis

Committee Member

Leposava Vušković


Advances in the particle accelerator technology have enabled numerous fundamental discoveries in 20th century physics. Extensive interdisciplinary research has always supported further development of accelerator technology in efforts of reaching each new energy frontier.

Accelerating cavities, which are used to transfer energy to accelerated charged particles, have been one of the main focuses of research and development in the particle accelerator field. Over the last fifty years, in the race to break energy barriers, there has been constant improvement of the maximum stable accelerating field achieved in accelerating cavities. Every increase in the maximum attainable accelerating fields allowed for higher energy upgrades of existing accelerators and more compact designs of new accelerators. Each new and improved technology was faced with ever emerging limiting factors.

With the standard high accelerating gradients of more than 25 MV/m, free electrons inside the cavities get accelerated by the field, gaining enough energy to produce more electrons in their interactions with the walls of the cavity. The electron production is exponential and the electron energy transfer to the walls of a cavity can trigger detrimental processes, limiting the performance of the cavity. The root cause of the free electron number gain is a phenomenon called Secondary Electron Emission (SEE). Even though the phenomenon has been known and studied over a century, there are still no effective means of controlling it. The ratio between the electrons emitted from the surface and the impacting electrons is defined as the Secondary Electron Yield (SEY). A SEY ratio larger than 1 designates an increase in the total number of electrons. In the design of accelerator cavities, the goal is to reduce the SEY to be as low as possible using any form of surface manipulation.

In this dissertation, an experimental setup was developed and used to study the SEY of various sample surfaces that were treated by different techniques. Specifically, this work provides the results of SEY from the plasma cleaned cavity grade niobium (Nb) samples. Pure niobium is currently the material of choice for the fabrication of Superconducting Radio Frequency (SRF) cavities. The effect of plasma processing with two different gases will be examined in two groups of samples. The first group of samples is made from cavity grade niobium. The second group of samples is made from the same material, but include a welded joint made by electron beam welding, since in niobium SRF cavities the peak electric and magnetic field are seen in close proximity to the welded joints. Both groups of samples will be exposed to nitrogen (N2) and a mixture of argon with oxygen (Ar/O2) plasma. It is the goal of this research to determine the SEY on these two groups of samples before and after plasma processing as a function of the energy of primary electrons. The SEY as a function of the angle of incidence of the primary electrons is tested on the samples treated with Ar/O2 plasma.