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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Distance-dependent plasma composition and ion energy in high power impulse magnetron sputtering


The plasma composition of high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS) has been studied for titanium and chromium targets using a combined energy analyser and quadrupole mass spectrometer. Measurements were done at distances from 50 to 300 mm from the sputtering target. Ti and Cr are similar in atomic mass but have significantly different sputter yields, which gives interesting clues on the effect of the target on plasma generation and transport of atoms. The Ti and Cr HIPIMS plasmas operated at a peak target current density of ~;;0.5 A cm-2. The measurements of the argon and metal ion content as well as the ion energy distribution functions showed that (1) singly and doubly charged ions were found for argon as well as for the target metal, (2) the majority of ions were singly charged argon for both metals at all distances investigated, (3) the Cr ion density was maintained to distances further from the target than Ti. Gas rarefaction was identified as a main factor promoting transport of metal ions, with the stronger effect observed for Cr, the material with higher sputter yield. Cr ions were found to displace a significant portion of the gas ions, whereas this was less evident in the Ti case. The observations indicate that the presence of metal vapour promotes charge exchange and reduces the electron temperature and thereby practically prevents the production of Ar2+ ions near the target. The content of higher charge states of metal ions depends on the probability of charge exchange with argon.

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