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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tutorial: Reactive high power impulse magnetron sputtering (R-HiPIMS)

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High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HiPIMS) is a coating technology that combines magnetron sputtering with pulsed power concepts. By applying power in pulses of high amplitude and a relatively low duty cycle, large fractions of sputtered atoms and near-target gases are ionized. In contrast to conventional magnetron sputtering, HiPIMS is characterized by self-sputtering or repeated gas recycling for high and low sputter yield materials, respectively, and both for most intermediate materials. The dense plasma in front of the target has the dual function of sustaining the discharge and providing plasma-assistance to film growth, affecting the microstructure of growing films. Many technologically interesting thin films are compound films, which are composed of one or more metals and a reactive gas, most often oxygen or nitrogen. When reactive gas is added, non-trivial consequences arise for the system because the target may become “poisoned,” i.e., a compound layer forms on the target surface affecting the sputtering yield and the yield of secondary electron emission and thereby all other parameters. It is emphasized that the target state depends not only on the reactive gas' partial pressure (balanced via gas flow and pumping) but also on the ion flux to the target, which can be controlled by pulse parameters. This is a critical technological opportunity for reactive HiPIMS (R-HiPIMS). The scope of this tutorial is focused on plasma processes and mechanisms of operation and only briefly touches upon film properties. It introduces R-HiPIMS in a systematic, step-by-step approach by covering sputtering, magnetron sputtering, reactive magnetron sputtering, pulsed reactive magnetron sputtering, HiPIMS, and finally R-HiPIMS. The tutorial is concluded by considering variations of R-HiPIMS known as modulated pulsed power magnetron sputtering and deep-oscillation magnetron sputtering and combinations of R-HiPIMS with superimposed dc magnetron sputtering.

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