Deposition of high-density and low-stress hydrogen-free diamond like carbon (DLC) thin films is demonstrated using a pulsed ionized sputtering process. This process is based on high power impulse magnetron sputtering, and high C ionization is achieved using Ne as the sputtering gas. The intrinsic compressive stress and its evolution with respect to ion energy and ion flux are explained in terms of the compressive stress based subplantation model for DLC growth by Davis. The highest mass density was ∼2.7 g/cm3, and the compressive stresses did not exceed ∼2.5 GPa. The resulting film stresses are substantially lower than those achieved for the films exhibiting similar mass densities grown by filtered cathodic vacuum arc and pulsed laser deposition methods. This unique combination of high mass density and low compressive stress is attributed to the ion induced stress relaxation during the pulse-off time which corresponds to the post thermal spike relaxation timescales. We therefore propose that the temporal ion flux variations determine the magnitude of the compressive stress observed in our films.

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