Sputter Coating

Sputter deposition is a physical vapour deposition (PVD) method of depositing thin films by sputtering, where material from a source is then deposited onto a substrate such as a silicon wafer, Aluminium or Titanium.

Sputtered atoms ejected from the target have a wide energy distribution, typically up to tens of eV (100000 K). The sputtered ions (typically only a small fraction — order 1% — of the ejected particles are ionized) can ballistically fly from the target in straight lines and impact energetically on the substrates or vacuum chamber (causing resputtering). At higher gas pressures, the ions collide with the gas atoms that act as a moderator and move diffusively, reaching the substrates or vacuum chamber wall and condensing after undergoing a random walk.

The entire range from high-energy ballistic impact to low-energy motion is accessible by changing the background gas pressure. The sputtering gas is often an inert gas such as Argon. For efficient momentum transfer, the atomic weight of the sputtering gas should be close to the atomic weight of the target, so for sputtering light elements neon is preferable, while for heavy elements krypton or xenon are used. Reactive gases can also be used to sputter compounds.  The compound can be formed on the target surface, in-flight or on the substrate depending on the process parameters.

The availability of many parameters that control sputter deposition make it a complex process, but also allow experts a large degree of control over the growth and microstructure of the film.