Reduction of trapped-ion anomalous heating by in situ surface plasma cleaning
August 28, 2015
Anomalous motional heating is a major obstacle to scalable quantum information processing with trapped ions. Although the source of this heating is not yet understood, several previous studies suggest that noise due to surface contaminants is the limiting heating mechanism in some instances. We demonstrate an improvement by a factor of 4 in the room-temperature heating rate of a niobium surface electrode trap by in situ plasma cleaning of the trap surface. This surface treatment was performed with a simple homebuilt coil assembly and commercially available matching network and is considerably gentler than other treatments, such as ion milling or laser cleaning, that have previously been shown to improve ion heating rates. We do not see an improvement in the heating rate when the trap is operated at cryogenic temperatures, pointing to a role of thermally activated surface contaminants in motional heating whose activity may freeze out at low temperatures.