Magnetron Sputtering is a Plasma Vapor Deposition (PVD) process in which a plasma is created and positively charged ions from the plasma are accelerated by an electrical field superimposed on the negatively charged electrode or "target". The positive ions are accelerated by potentials ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand electron volts and strike the negative electrode with sufficient force to dislodge and eject atoms from the target. These atoms will be ejected in a typical line-of-sight cosine distribution from the face of the target and will condense on surfaces that are placed in proximity to the magnetron sputtering cathode.
The targets are fabricated from materials that one subsequently wishes to deposit on the surface of the component facing the electrode. Conductive materials can be deposited using a direct current (DC) power supply and insulators can be deposited by using a radio frequency (RF) power supply. 13.56 MHz is one of the frequencies in the RF spectrum that has been allocated to “industrial applications” as is by far the most common frequency used in the sputtering application.
Magnetron sputtering deposition uses a closed magnetic field to trap electrons, enhancing both the efficiency of the initial ionization process and allowing a plasma to be generated at lower pressures which reduces both background gas incorporation in the growing film and energy loses in the sputtered atom through gas collisions. This technique was pioneered in 1852 and gained commercial success in the Microelectronic and Architectural Glass industry in the 1960's and 1970's. At the present time, magnetron sputtering sources are commercially available in many geometric configurations where the targets can be circular, rectangular, or tubular in form. Over the past few years approaches based on sweeping the magnetic field over the surface of the target have been engineered and deployed in the field to drive application-specific solutions.
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