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Plasma "anti-assistance" and "self-assistance" to high power impulse magnetron sputtering

  • Author(s): Anders, Andre
  • et al.
Abstract

A plasma assistance system was investigated with the goal to operate high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) at lower pressure than usual, thereby to enhance the utilization of the ballistic atoms and ions with high kinetic energy in the film growth process. Gas plasma flow from a constricted plasma source was aimed at the magnetron target. Contrary to initial expectations, such plasma assistance turned out to be contra-productive because it led to the extinction of the magnetron discharge. The effect can be explained by gas rarefaction. A better method of reducing the necessary gas pressure is operation at relatively high pulse repetition rates where the afterglow plasma of one pulse assists in the development of the next pulse. Here we show that this method, known from medium-frequency (MF) pulsed sputtering, is also very important at the much lower pulse repetition rates of HiPIMS. A minimum in the possible operational pressure is found in the frequency region between HiPIMS and MF pulsed sputtering.

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