Arc is next to sputtering one of the most common physical vapor deposition techniques utilized today. The Arc is local discharge, leading to point temperatures of about 15,000°C, evaporating the target material into the gas phase. As the gas phase exhibits neutral and ionic species it can also be considered as a plasma. Additionally, introduced reactive gas like O2 or N2 allow synthesis of compound films such as typical hard coatings Al2O3 or TiN. Target species are now transported through this plasma phase and condense on a surface, typically the tool or sample, creating a thin film. While applying a potential on the sample, the so-called bias potential, ionized species in the plasma can be additionally attracted and the energetics of the incoming species can be tuned. This tuned energetics of the incoming species can be used to adjust thin film and ultimately tool/sample properties. Properties which can be adjusted in this manner are thin film structure, hardness, adhesion, stress, density, and many more.
Different power supplies enable a large variety of metallic, ceramic and compound material systems including conducting to insulating materials. The additional possibility to adjust the energetics in the process enable significantly lower process temperature compared to standard CVD (chemical vapor deposition) processes.
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