Contamination due to memory effects in filtered vacuum arc plasma deposition systems
Thin film synthesis by filtered vacuum arc plasma deposition is a widely used technique with a number of important emerging technological applications. A characteristic feature of the method is that during the deposition process not only is the substrate coated by the plasma, but the plasma gun itself and the magnetic field coil and/or vacuum vessel section constituting the macroparticle filter are also coated to some extent. If then the plasma gun cathode is changed to a new element, there can be a contamination of the subsequent film deposition by sputtering from various parts of the system of the previous coating species. We have experimentally explored this effect and compared our results with theoretical estimates of sputtering from the SRIM (Stopping and Range of Ions in Matter) code. We find film contamination of order 10-4 - 10-3, and the memory of the prior history of the deposition hardware can be relatively long-lasting.