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X-ray enhanced sputter rates in argon cluster ion sputter-depth profiling of polymers

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4 Author(s)
Cumpson, Peter J. ; National EPSRC XPS User's Service (NEXUS), School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 7RU, United Kingdom ; Portoles, Jose F. ; Sano, Naoko ; Barlow, Anders J.

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The authors have observed for the first time that x-ray exposure of certain polymers of “degrading” type can greatly enhance the sputter rate of these polymers by gas cluster ion beam (GCIB) profiling. They have observed craters of similar dimensions to the x-ray spot well within the perimeter of sputter craters, indicating that x-rays can assist GCIB sputtering very significantly. This can be a major source of the loss of depth-resolution in sputter depth profiles of polymers. The authors have measured experimentally sputter craters in 14 different polymers by white-light interferometry. The results show that x-ray exposure can introduce much more topography than might previously have been expected, through both thermal and direct x-ray degradation and cross-linking. Within the region exposed to x-rays, the response of the polymer surface depends on its chemistry, with degrading (also known as type II) polymers being susceptible to large increases in sputter rate in some cases. For example, this leads to a sputter rate increase of a factor of 3 in poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) compared to cluster-ion sputtering in the absence of x rays under typical experimental conditions. By comparison, crosslinking (also known as type I) polymers show either the same sputter rate or a reduced sputter rate due to crosslinking. The authors model this behavior using the bond scission parameter (GS) and crosslinking parameter (GX) used to model radiation damage in polymers. Agreement is good, allowing us to provide guidelines to assist in planning XPS depth-profiling experiments, in particular, for polymers such as PMMA and PLLA, where any requirement for uniform sputter rate is a more stringent limit to x-ray exposure than the requirement for the XPS spectra to represent chemical states quantitatively without damage.

Published in:

Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B: Microelectronics and Nanometer Structures  (Volume:31 ,  Issue: 2 )