The possibility to optimize a high-power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) discharge through mixing two different power levels in the pulse pattern is investigated. Standard HiPIMS pulses are used to create the ions of the film-forming material. After each HiPIMS pulse an off-time follows, during which no voltage (or, optionally, a reversed voltage) is applied, letting the remaining ions in the magnetic trap escape towards the substrate. After these off-times, a long second pulse with lower amplitude, in the dc magnetron sputtering range, is applied. During this pulse, which is continued up to the following HiPIMS pulse, mainly neutrals of the film-forming material are produced. This pulse pattern makes it possible to achieve separate optimization of the ion production, and of the neutral atom production, that constitute the film-forming flux to the substrate. The optimization process is thereby separated into two sub-problems. The first sub-problem concerns minimizing the energy cost for ion production, and the second sub-problem deals with how to best split a given allowed discharge power between ion production and neutral production. The optimum power split is decided by the lowest ionized flux fraction that gives the desired film properties for a specific application. For the first sub-problem we describe a method where optimization is achieved by the selection of five process parameters: The HiPIMS pulse amplitude, the HiPIMS pulse length, the off-time, the working gas pressure, and the magnetic field strength. For the second sub-problem, the splitting of power between ion and neutral production, optimization is achieved by the selection of the values of two remaining process parameters, the HiPIMS pulse repetition frequency and the discharge voltage of the low-power pulse.
- Deposition rate
- High-power impulse magnetron sputtering (hipims)
- Magnetron sputtering