Sputtering is next to arc one of the most common physical vapor deposition techniques. A gas, typically an inert gas such as Argon or Krypton, is introduced in the deposition chamber and used as sputter gas. Additionally, reactive gases such as Oxygen or Nitrogen can be introduced into the deposition chamber, allowing the synthesis of compound films such as Al2O3 or TiN. Ionized gas species are attracted by a negative potential towards the target surface, initializing the sputter process. Momentum and energy transfer while these sputter events can lead to target atom ejection. Depending on the impinging ion energy, the sputtered species can be neutral or ionized. The energetics of the neutral species can be affected by collisions during transport through the gas phase or effectively the gas pressure. Ionized species can additionally be attracted by an electric potential on the sample surface, the so-called Bias potential. Finally, controlling the 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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