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Multiple plasma immersion ion implantation-deposition offers better flexibility compared to other thin film deposition techniques with regard to process optimization. The plasmas may be based on either cathodic arc plasmas (metal ions) or gas plasmas (gas ions) or both of them. Processing parameters such as pulsing frequency, pulse duration, bias voltage amplitude, and so on, that critically affect the film structure, internal stress, surface morphology, and other surface properties can be adjusted relatively easily to optimize the process. The plasma density can be readily controlled via the input power to obtain the desirable gas-to-metal ion ratios in the films. The high-voltage pulses can be applied to the samples within (in-duration mode), before (before-duration mode), or after (after-duration mode) the firing of the cathodic arcs. Consequently, dynamic ion beam assisted deposition processes incorporating various mixes of gas and metal ions can be achieved to yield thin films with the desirable properties. The immersion configuration provides to a certain degree the ability to treat components that are large and possess irregular geometries without resorting to complex sample manipulation or beam scanning. In this article we describe the hardware functions of such a system, voltage–current behavior to satisfy the needs of different processes, as well as typical experimental results. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.