Plasma-based process control of reactive sputtering processes

DFG Projekt #417888799

In this project, a capacitively coupled plasma discharge with an externally applied magnetic field is investigated. Such so-called low-temperature plasmas are used industrially to deposit thin films on substrate surfaces amongst other things. The layers, structures and surface properties produced in this way have a wide range of applications in the fields of corrosion and wear protection, biocompatibility, and altering optical properties of surfaces. Without such plasma applications, a large number of modern high-tech products such as smartphones, laptops, durable drill heads, and car parts would not exist.

For the industrial use of these plasma processes, their stability and control are crucial. However, the plasma sources used are usually highly complex and the fundamental plasma physics in such reactive discharges is not well understood. This includes, among others, the understanding of plasma generation, plasma-surface interaction, particle transport across magnetic field lines, and the control of flux-energy distribution functions of layer-determining particle species (radicals, ions, electrons).

In the project, the concept of plasma-based process control of technological plasma processes will be developed and tested. The aim is to make the properties of deposited layers selectively adjustable by understanding the effect of external variables such as gas flow, power, or magnetic field strength on layer-determining plasma variables from a control point of view and thus making layer properties controllable. For this purpose, the deposition of Al2O3 layers is investigated and the understanding of the physics is targeted using different diagnostics. Project partners are the Institute of Theoretical Electrical Engineering and the Institute of Automation and Computer Control at RUB.