Ion energy control via the electrical asymmetry effect to tune coating properties in reactive radio frequency sputtering

Ries, S. and Banko, L. and Hans, M. and Primetzhofer, D. and Schneider, J.M. and Ludwig, Al. and Awakowicz, P. and Schulze, J.

Volume: 28 Pages:
DOI: 10.1088/1361-6595/ab504b
Published: 2019

A knowledge-based understanding of the plasma-surface-interaction with the aim to precisely control (reactive) sputtering processes for the deposition of thin films with tailored and reproducible properties is highly desired for industrial applications. In order to understand the effect of plasma parameter variations on the film properties, a single plasma parameter needs to be varied, while all other process and plasma parameters should remain constant. In this work, we use the Electrical Asymmetry Effect in a multi-frequency capacitively coupled plasma to control the ion energy at the substrate without affecting the ion-to-growth flux ratio by adjusting the relative phase between two consecutive driving harmonics and their voltage amplitudes. Measurements of the ion energy distribution function and ion flux at the substrate by a retarding field energy analyzer combined with the determined deposition rate R d for a reactive Ar/N2 (8:1) plasma at 0.5 Pa show a possible variation of the mean ion energy at the substrate E m ig within a range of 38 and 81 eV that allows the modification of the film characteristics at the grounded electrode, when changing the relative phase shift θ between the applied voltage frequencies, while the ion-to-growth flux ratio Γig/Γgr can be kept constant. AlN thin films are deposited and exhibit an increase in compressive film stress from -5.8 to -8.4 GPa as well as an increase in elastic modulus from 175 to 224 GPa as a function of the mean ion energy. Moreover, a transition from the preferential orientation (002) at low ion energies to the (100), (101) and (110) orientations at higher ion energies is observed. In this way, the effects of the ion energy on the growing film are identified, while other process relevant parameters remain unchanged. © 2019 IOP Publishing Ltd.

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