Dual frequency capacitive plasmas in Fe and Ni sputter applications: correlation of discharge properties on thin film properties

Stefan Bienholz, Egmont Semmler, Peter Awakowicz, H Brunken, A Ludwig

PLASMA SOURCES SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, Volume: 21, Issue: 1, Article Number: 015010, DOI: 10.1088/0963-0252/21/1/015010, Published: FEB 2012


Dual frequency capacitively coupled plasmas (CCPs) are widely used in (large area) etching and plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition processes. However, applications in physical vapor deposition (PVD) are still sparse due to the well-established dc magnetron cathode discharges. Nevertheless, there exist critical applications such as ferromagnetic or ceramic thin film deposition which are difficult to handle even for dc magnetron systems. For these materials systems dual frequency CCPs pose a good alternative, because for insulators charging can be avoided and for ferromagnetic materials the target thickness becomes independent of the magnetron configuration at comparable deposition rates.

In this work we investigate two separate subjects. First, in dual frequency capacitive discharges a complex coupling of the applied excitation frequencies can be observed, which from a plasma parameter point of view limits the separability of ion flux (usually controlled by frequencies > 60 MHz) and ion bombarding energy (usually controlled by frequency < 15 MHz) onto the sputter target. By performing deposition experiments it was found that by following simple tuning guidelines a very good degree of separability is achievable. Additionally, the deposition homogeneity is not affected.

Second, we correlate the growth conditions with crystalline and magnetic properties as well as the degree of O content for Fe and Ni films. Therefore, we applied different signals as a substrate bias to influence thin film growth. It was found that the crystalline and magnetic properties can be influenced for both Fe and Ni films but is more pronounced for Ni.

tags: plasma