The Science and Application of Sputtering Systems

Guest post is provided by Denton Vacuum, LLC, providing the magnetron sputtering system for a variety of industry applications. View their website for more information.

Vacuum sputtering technology like plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition allows for thin, diamond-like films to be laid on pieces of plastic or metal. The substrate to be laid in a film on the target is heated to levels so high, it can be compared to the temperature of the sun. As it cools, it condenses in a microscopic layer over the target, so thin that you would need an electron microscope to view the thickness of the layer. Because the layer is so durable, it can be used for high abrasion and impact surfaces to prevent chipping and scratching. This makes it perfect for factory environments and the creation of precision instruments and computer hardware.

Items coated through sputter deposition can endure enormously high temperatures considering that their coating was created at plasma levels. The great thing about a coating created through the sputtering method is that because the layering is only microns thin, it adds virtually no extra weight to the item being coated. In the semiconductor industry, sputtering is used to etch a target. The drawback of using the method has been described as a sort of wafer damage due to the intensity of the procedure.

An interesting fact about naturally occurring sputtering in the environment is that its effects can be observed in space. It is hypothesized that high electron beams have changed the physical and chemical properties of large bodies such as asteroids and the moon. Scientist also suspect that naturally occurring sputtering on a large scale may have been the cause of the disappearance of Mars’ atmosphere. By the same principles, the planet Mercury is able to revitalize its surface-bounded exosphere.

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