When trying to understand the basics of sputtering systems, one must trace back to the core of how it functions. Physical vapor deposition is a family of processes that is typically used to deposit layers of molecules or atoms from the vapor phase onto a substrate in a chamber that has been vacuum-sealed. Two of the most common type of PVD processes used are sputtering and electron beam evaporation. Here is a breakdown of both methods so that you can understand in further depth how these play a role in metal deposition.
The process of sputtering involves the ejection of a material from a target that is a source onto a substrate that occurs within a vacuum chamber. This effect is essentially caused by the bombardment of the target through ionized gas – which is often an inert gas like argon. Sputtering is used extensively in the semiconductor industry to deposit thin films of various metals in the circuit industry. Anti-reflection coatings on glass for optical applications are also deposited via sputtering. Because of the lower substrate temperatures that are used in the process, sputtering is an ideal method to deposit metals for transistors. Now, the most familiar products of sputtering are coatings on glass that you most likely known as double-pane window assemblies. One of the most important advantages of sputtering is that materials with high melting points are easily sputtered.
Electron Beam Evaporation
Electron beam evaporation – or E-Beam evaporation for short – is the process in which a target material is bombarded with an electron beam that is given off by a tungsten filament under a high vacuum environment. This electron beam causes atoms from the source material to evaporate into a gas. These atoms will then go on to precipitate into a solid, while coating everything in the vacuum chamber with a thin layer of the anode material. One of the clear advantages of using E-beam evaporation is that it permits the direct transfer of energy to source during the heating and can be very efficient when depositing pure evaporated materials to substrate – similar to that of a thermal evaporation system. The material utilization efficiency is high relative to other methods and the process offers both structural and morphological control of the films. Now, due to the very high deposition rates, this process has industrial application for wear resistant and thermal barrier coatings aerospace industries, optical films for semiconductor industries, and hard coatings for the tool industries.
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