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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 29, 2023
  2. Microwave loss in niobium metallic structures used for superconducting quantum circuits is limited by a native surface oxide layer formed over a timescale of minutes when exposed to an ambient environment. In this work, we show that nitrogen plasma treatment forms a niobium nitride layer at the metal–air interface, which prevents such oxidation. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy confirms the doping of nitrogen more than 5 nm into the surface and a suppressed oxygen presence. This passivation remains stable after aging for 15 days in an ambient environment. Cryogenic microwave characterization shows an average filling-factor-adjusted two-level-system loss tangent [Formula: see text] of [Formula: see text] for resonators with a 3 [Formula: see text]m center strip and [Formula: see text] for a 20 [Formula: see text]m center strip, exceeding the performance of unpassivated samples by a factor of four.

    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 11, 2023