Magnetron sputtering is a deposition technology involving a gaseous plasma which is generated and confined to a space containing the material to be deposited – the ‘target’. The surface of the target is eroded by high-energy ions within the plasma, and the liberated atoms travel through the vacuum environment and deposit onto a substrate to form a thin film.
In a typical sputtering deposition process, a chamber is first evacuated to high vacuum to minimize the partial pressures of all background gases and potential contaminants. After base pressure has been reached, sputtering gas which comprises the plasma is flowed into the chamber and the total pressure is regulated – typically in the milliTorr range – using a pressure control system.
To initiate plasma generation, high voltage is applied between the cathode – commonly located directly behind the sputtering target – and the anode – commonly connected to the chamber as electrical ground. Electrons which are present in the sputtering gas are accelerated away from the cathode causing collisions with nearby atoms of sputtering gas.
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