Reliability characteristics of microfabricated Rb mini-lamps for optical pumping in miniature atomic clocks and magnetometers
With the rising need for microfabricated chip-scale atomic clocks to enable high precision timekeeping in portable applications, there has been active interest in developing miniature (<few cm3), chip-scale alkali vapor lamps, since vapor plasma discharge sources are currently the standard for optical pumping in double-resonance clocks. We reported in 2012 a first microfabricated chip-scale Rubidium dielectric barrier discharge lamp. The device’s preliminary results indicated its high potential for optical pumping applications and wafer-scale batch fabrication. The chip-scale plasma light sources were observed to be robust with no obvious performance change after thousands of plasma ignitions, and with no electrode erosion from plasma discharges since the electrodes are external. However, as atomic clocks have strict lamp performance requirements including less than 0.1% sub-second optical power fluctuations, power consumption less than 20 mW and a device lifetime of at least several years, it is important to understand the long-term reliability of these Rb planar mini-lamps, and identify the operating conditions where these devices can be most reliable and stable. In this paper, we report on the reliability of such microfabricated lamps including a continuous several month run of the lamp where the optical power, electrical power consumption and temperature stability were continuously monitored. We also report on the effects of temperature, rf-power and the lamp-drive parasitics on the optical power stability and discuss steps that could be taken to further improve the device’s performance and reliability.