A spatially averaged, time-dependent global plasma model has been developed to describe the reactive deposition of a TiAlSiN thin film by modulated pulsed power magnetron sputtering (MPPMS) discharges in Ar/N2 mixture gas, based on the particle balance and the energy balance in the ionization region, and considering the formation and erosion of the compound at the target surface. The modeling results show that, with increasing the N2 partial pressure from 0% to 40% at a constant working pressure of 0.3 Pa, the electron temperature during the strongly ionized period increases from 4 to 7 eV and the effective power transfer coefficient, which represents the power fraction that effectively heats the electrons and maintains the discharge, increases from about 4% to 7%; with increasing the working pressure from 0.1 to 0.7 Pa at a constant N2 partial pressure of 25%, the electron temperature decreases from 10 to 4 eV and the effective power transfer coefficient decreases from 8% to 5%. Using the modeled plasma parameters to evaluate the kinetic energy of arriving ions, the ion-to-neutral flux ratio of deposited species, and the substrate heating, the variations of process parameters that increase these values lead to an enhanced adatom mobility at the target surface and an increased input energy to the substrate, corresponding to the experimental observation of surface roughness reduction, the microstructure transition from the columnar structure to the dense featureless structure, and the enhancement of phase separation. At higher N2 partial pressure or lower working pressure, the modeling results demonstrate an increase in electron temperature, which shifts the discharge balance of Ti species from Ti+ to Ti2+ and results in a higher return fraction of Ti species, corresponding to the higher Al/Ti ratio of deposited films at these conditions. The modeling results are well correlated with the experimental observation of the composition variation and the microstructure transition of deposited TiAlSiN compound films, demonstrating the applicability of this approach in understanding the characteristics of reactive MPPMS discharges as well as the composition and microstructure of deposited compound films. The model for reactive MPPMS discharges has no special limitations and is applicable to high power impulse magnetron sputtering discharges as well.
A global plasma model for reactive deposition of compound films by modulated pulsed power magnetron sputtering discharges
B. C. Zheng, Z. L. Wu, B. Wu, Y. G. Li, M. K. Lei; A global plasma model for reactive deposition of compound films by modulated pulsed power magnetron sputtering discharges. J. Appl. Phys. 7 May 2017; 121 (17): 171901. https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4977471
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