Tutorial Course Descriptions

Detailed Syllabus


This course is intended for people with a basic background in materials science who need to understand the broad range of techniques available to characterize thick films, thin films, and surfaces. The course is appropriate for technicians, engineers, and managers who perform or specify characterization work as well as students seeking a broad understanding of the field. The tutorial examines a broad range of important properties of discusses how film thickness may cause measured values/performance to differ from bulk properties. Generic differences between counting and spectroscopic techniques are presented and available “probes” are identified.


Topical Outline:
  • HIPIMS - An Introduction
  • Stationary plasmas, sheaths, discharge
  • The dc magnetron processes
  • Ion surface modification: etching and film growth, energetic condensation
  • Pulsed plasmas and sheaths
  • High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering: the discharge
  • Plasma characterization and plasma diagnostics
  • Substrate biasing: etching / growth assist
  • Interface engineering by using HIPIMS plasmas
  • Deposition and coatings by HIPIMS
  • Hardware
  • Applications
Course Details:

This tutorial is intended for engineers, technicians, students, and others interested in using pulsed plasmas for deposition in general, and high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS) in particular. Some basic understanding or experience with plasmas and materials is desirable but not required.

The tutorial starts with an introduction to basic plasma and sheath physics, as it is relevant to coatings and films. We will explain the operation and physical processes of DC magnetrons to provide the foundation for the understanding of the time-dependent processes in pulsed systems. To appreciate the effects of pulsed plasmas on coatings, we provide a brief overview on film growth modes and the effects obtained by ion bombardment. Attention will also be paid to substrate surface modification by very energetic ions (etching) where sputtering and shallow ion implantation occur. The world of pulsed plasma processing is introduced by considering the effects of pulsing on the plasma and sheath.

Equipped with these basics, we move on to the central topic of this tutorial, high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS). With HIPIMS we mean a pulsed sputtering process where the power density on the sputtering target is greatly enhanced (about two orders of magnitude) over the average power density. Hence, the word “impulse” is adopted to signify a low duty cycle. We will explain how the time-dependent HIPIMS discharge differs from conventional magnetron discharges.

Based on various plasma diagnostics techniques, the HIPIMS plasma is characterized and compared to plasmas of other magnetron and arc discharges. The high degree of ionization of the sputtered material enables effective surface modification via ion etching and ion assistance to film growth. The interface to the substrate can be engineered and the film texture can be influenced using the HIPIMS plasma and appropriate bias.

The tutorial is concluded by considering various available hardware (power supplies etc.) and industrial applications such as tool coatings.

Instructor: Tom Christensen, Provost/Professor of Physics, University of Colorado - Colorado Springs
Tom Christensen

Tom Christensen is a Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He received his B.S. in physics from the University of Minnesota in 1979 and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Applied Physics from Cornell University. After several years at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque he joined the University of Colorado faculty in 1989 where he has served as Department Chair, Dean and Provost. He has worked with vacuum technology, thin film technology and surface characterization since 1980 and has taught local AVS or SVC short courses since 1992.

This course is currently available via:
On Location Education Program

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