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A theory is developed that gives a relatively complete electrical characterization of rf sputtering systems. Three types of systems are analyzed: tuned substrate, driven substrate, and controlled area ratio of electrode (CARE) systems. The theory is applicable to any of these systems that do not use magnetic fields to confine the plasma. Given the input rf power and voltage at the target, and any other parameters that can be specified as independent variables (e.g., pressure, substrate drive voltage, tuning impedance, and system geometry), the theory provides explicit values for all dc and rf electrical parameters of the system. The dc bias developed at the substrate is explained and related to the resputtering energy. In addition, an approximate calculation is presented for the ion density in the plasma; this calculation allows a semiquantitative estimate of the rf voltage developed at the target for a given value of rf input power. It also shows the influence of pressure and frequency on rf sputtering system operation. Comparisons are made with real rf sputtering systems; these show that the theory is quite successful in predicting the operation of these systems. In addition, a much better understanding is achieved of some of the complex electrical phenomena encountered in these systems. The theory should prove useful both for new system design and for diagnostic work on existing equipment.
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