High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HIPIMs)

HiPIMS is a sputtering technology that builds upon the advantages of conventional magnetron sputtering. In magnetron sputtering, increased plasma densities are created near the target that boost the sputtering rate beyond that of traditional diode technology. The plasma density could be increased further with a higher rate of power applied to the cathode; however, dissipating the heat generated from these processes prohibits any practical use.

In HiPIMS, a train of short, intense pulses is delivered to the cathode. During a pulse, a very high – often kilowatt or megawatt – peak power creates an extremely dense plasma. To avoid the problem of excess heat, the pulses are delivered with a very low duty cycle which keeps heat, as well as the average operating power, at very manageable levels.

A HiPIMS plasma results in a large fraction of ionized sputtered atoms. When the fraction of ionized atoms is greater than that of neutrals, the process is referred to as ionized physical vapor deposition (IPVD). There are several advantages to having an ionized deposition flux, including increased reactivity, film density and hardness, as well as improved conformality and coverage of high aspect ratio features.

Note: HiPIMS is sometimes referred to as High Power Pulsed Magnetron Sputtering (HPPMS)

Reactive Processes

The added energy of HiPIMS also creates the possibility for a reactive process, whereby the ions of the sputtered material contain enough energy to react to other gases introduced into the chamber, often nitrogen or oxygen. Traditional reactive processes to fabricate nitrides and/or oxides can require a high temperature to provide enough energy for reaction, which decreases throughput and may not be compatible with all substrates/processes. HiPIMS, however, causes a dense ionized flux that reacts without the need for high temperature, resulting in the opportunity for much higher throughput and compatibility across more processes and applications.

Enhanced HiPIMS films

Furthermore, the directionality of the ionized plume can be manipulated using several techniques. An RF plasma generated at the substrate surface creates a net negative bias that attracts and accelerates the ionized target material, resulting in extraordinarily dense, hard films. If RF bias at the substrate is not available, a positive bias pulsed at the cathode can be used to accelerate the ions towards the substrate using a 'push' instead of a pull. This is often referred to as 'bipolar' HiPIMS.

We have helped our partners consistently create superb films using HiPIMS:

  • Room Temperature Nitrides and Oxides
  • Niobium-based nitrides (NbN) for superconducting applications
  • Titanium nitride (TiN) coatings
  • Chromium (Cr) hard coatings
  • Diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings

Find some of our work in HiPIMs in the following published work:

  1. Microstructural and nanomechanical studies of PVD Cr coatings on SiC for LWR fueld cladding applications.
  2. Microscopic relaxation channels in materials for superconducting qubits.

HiPIMS magnetron sputtering is available in a variety of source configurations and compatible with many of Angstrom’s process control capabilities and advanced fixturing options.

Aeres®, Angstrom’s advanced process control software, has been specifically configured with features and capabilities unique to high performance DC magnetron sputter deposition. Click here to learn more.

For a background overview of magnetron sputter deposition, or to explore other sputtering topics, please click the links below.

Discover More...

Sputtering OverviewLinear SputteringRF SputteringDC SputteringPulsed DC SputteringFacing Target SputteringReactive Gas Sputtering

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Angstrom Engineering is as close to an 'easy button' for PVD as one can get.

Tony Novembre - Associate Director of PRISM - Princeton University