Abstract:We examine the time-dependent dynamics of ion crystals in radiofrequency traps. The problem of stable trapping of general three-dimensional crystals is considered and the validity of the pseudopotential approximation is discussed. We analytically derive the micromotion amplitude of the ions, rigorously proving well-known experimental observations. We use a recently proposed method to find the modes that diagonalize the linearized time-dependent dynamical problem. This allows one to obtain explicitly the ('Floquet–Lyapunov') transformation to coordinates of decoupled linear oscillators. We demonstrate the utility of the method by analyzing the modes of a small 'peculiar' crystal in a linear Paul trap. The calculations can be readily generalized to multispecies ion crystals in general multipole traps, and time-dependent quantum wavefunctions of ion oscillations in such traps can be obtained.