Magnetron Sputtering

Deposition systems that employ sputtering can do incredible things. One of our partners uses their sputter tool to create silver nanoparticles that go into medical creams and bandages, as silver nanoparticles have demonstrated anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. We are proud that the technology our partners create with our engineered systems move this world forward.  Sputtering is just one way to deposit materials but is ideal for creating contact layers, which are used in display technology, next generation lighting technology like OLED, and optics.

How does sputtering work? By creating a strong magnetic or electrical field during the sputtering process, ions and electrons that are generated in the plasma are confined to a designated area closer to the source target. This causes more collisions between ions and neutral gas molecules, which creates even more ions that collide with the target and eject material.  This process causes a higher rate of deposition. Magnetron sputtering also helps reduce any damage to the thin film compared to other types of sputtering because the magnetic field helps the electrons travel a specific route, without bombarding the substrate.

Design schematic drawing of a sputter cathode

Magnetron sputtering  is useful for creating very dense film coatings with increased adhesion. The coating resulting from magnetron sputtering has increased film density due to the higher energy of the ejected material from the target.

Linear sputter physical vapor deposition pvd system with inset image of large rectangular sputter process underway with argon plasma ignition

Sputtering is a PVD coating technology. During the process, inert gas atoms are sent into a high vacuum environment at a relative level of pressure below 10 milliTorr. Once the inert gas atoms are ionized, creating a gas-like atmosphere, it will cause them to collide with the target. This is what enables the target atoms to eject toward the substrate, after which they will condense and form a thin-film. This process continues introducing new layers of the target material onto the substrate.

Of the many methods of depositing material onto a substrate, such as plastic, ceramic and metal, sputtering is one of the most used because of its scalability and its ability to deposit a wide range of materials.

We can configure systems to support several types sputter deposition such as RF sputtering, DC sputtering and Pulsed DC sputtering. Each of these deposition methods uses a process sputter gas, which is usually an inert gas like argon with reactive gases added for certain processes. Other forms of sputter depositions include ion-beam sputtering, reactive sputtering, ion-assisted sputtering, high-target utilization sputtering, gas flow sputtering, high power magnetron sputtering & facing target sputtering.  Specifically configured sources make sputtering magnetic materials such as Fe, Ni and Co much easier and support an increase in target thickness.

Two magnetron sputter cathodes during the magnetron sputter process with plasma ignition

We have created many systems that incorporate magnetron sputtering as a deposition source. In larger chambers, we can put several sputtering sources, along with e-beam and thermal resistive sources as well. Our partners use our sputter systems to create all kinds of contact layers, from those used in medicine, to night vision eyewear. We have partners using our sputtering systems, employing transparent conductive layer (TCO) sputtering, to create the state of the art OLED TV’s everyone wants for their home, and we have many partners using the same technique to research organic photovoltaics in labs around the world.

3 applications of the sputtering process in physical vapor deposition thin film process, including OLED, Night Vision technology, and thin film solar

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