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Sputter Deposition Methods: Ion Beam Sputtering, Magnetron Sputtering and Reactive Sputtering

May 20, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Guest post is provided by Denton Vacuum, LLC. Denton Vacuum manufactures machines that employ precision sputter deposition methods for diamond-like film quality. Visit for more information.

Vacuum coating systems are an amazing method of laying down layers of metal so thin that they are only a few atoms thick. Even more stunning is that these layers are incredibly durable, compared to the strength of a diamond. Practical applications for this kind of technology is for coating semiconductor systems or anything else that might have to endure high temperatures, pressures or impact over time. There are 3 main types of sputtering methods offered today: magnetron sputtering, ion beam sputtering and reactive sputtering.

Magnetron sputtering works by charging a magnetic field around the target. Gases such as argon fill the chamber and the material is electrically charged with either an AC or DC current. This type of ionization traps rogue electrons in the magnetic field. Eventually the density of the caught particles becomes so great, it begins to interact with the gas and begins to create energetic ions. The ions then impact the source material creating a residue on its surface.

Another sputter deposition method is Ion beam sputtering. Ion beam sputtering is able to work without a magnetic field. Ions ejected from the material to do the coating interact with electrons from a secondary source with a different charge. The target is then attacked with neutral atoms. Ion beams can conduct and insulate anything introduced into the chamber.

Reactive sputtering methods depend on how the gasses in the chamber and the material interact. How layers are accomplished can be manipulated by altering the pressure or types of gasses in the chamber. Layers on optic devices are usually laid via the reactive sputtering method. A thermal evaporation system relies on heat to activate the gasses.

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