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The effect of changing the magnetic field strength on HiPIMS deposition rates

Bradley, JW and Mishra, A and Kelly, PJ (2015) The effect of changing the magnetic field strength on HiPIMS deposition rates. Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, 48. ISSN 0022-3727

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Abstract

The marked difference in behaviour between HiPIMS and conventional dc or pulsed-dc magnetron sputtering discharges with changing magnetic field strengths is demonstrated through measurements of deposition rate. To provide a comparison between techniques the same circular magnetron was operated in the three excitation modes at a fixed average power of 680 W and a pressure of 0.54 Pa in the non-reactive sputtering of titanium. The total magnetic field strength B at the cathode surface in the middle of the racetrack was varied from 195 to 380 G. DC and pulsed-dc discharges show the expected behaviour that deposition rates fall with decreasing B (here by ~25–40%), however the opposite trend is observed in HiPIMS with deposition rates rising by a factor of 2 over the same decrease in B. These observations are understood from the stand point of the different composition and transport processes of the depositing metal flux between the techniques. In HiPIMS, this flux is largely ionic and slow post-ionized sputtered particles are subject to strong back attraction to the target by a retarding plasma potential structure ahead of them. The height of this potential barrier is known to increase with increasing B. From a simple phenomenological model of the sputtered particles fluxes, and using the measured deposition rates from the different techniques as inputs, the combined probabilities of ionization, α, and back attraction, β, of the metal species in HiPIMS has been calculated. There is a clear fall in αβ (from ~0.9 to ~0.7) with decreasing B-field strengths, we argue primarily due to a weakening of electrostatic ion back attraction, so leading to higher deposition rates. The results indicate that careful design of magnetron field strengths should be considered to optimise HiPIMS deposition rates.

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