The Effect of Plasma Activation of Reactive Gas in Reactive Magnetron Sputtering
The effect of plasma activation of reactive gas on the process of reactive magnetron synthesis of oxide coatings was theoretically and experimentally investigated using a radio-frequency inductively coupled plasma source, which creates a flow of activated reactive gas directed towards the surface on which the oxide coating is deposited. The reactive gas passes through a dense inductively coupled plasma located inside the plasma source, while argon is supplied through a separate channel near the magnetron. A theoretical model has been built allowing the calculation of spatial distributions of fluxes of metal atoms and molecules of activated reaction gas, as well as the stoichiometry area of the synthesized coatings. Calculations were performed on the example of aluminum oxide. It was found that the plasma activation of the reactive gas allows to increase the sticking coefficient of oxygen to the surface of the growing coating from values less than 0.1 for non-activated molecular oxygen to 0.9 when 500 W of RF power is introduced into the inductive discharge. In order to verify the developed model, experiments were conducted on depositing an aluminum oxide film on glass substrates located at different distances from the magnetron target, followed by measuring the distribution of film transparency along the substrate length and comparing it with the calculated distribution. A comparison of the calculation results with the experimental data shows a good agreement in the entire studied range of parameters. Based on the generalization of the obtained results, an empirical rule was formulated that the power ratio of the magnetron discharge and the plasma activator should be approximately 8:1.
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