Increasing use has been made in thin film technology of physical and chemical phenomena occurring in low pressure plasmas which are convenient insitu sources of activated gas and energetic ions to be used as additional process parameters in film growth, structure, and properties. Energetic ions and/or activated species in the vapor phase are now employed in processes for surface treatment (ion nitriding and carburizing), deposition (sputtering, ion plating, activated reactive evaporation, and plasma polymerization) and also for etching (sputtering and plasma etching). In recent years, therefore, considerable efforts have been directed to the analysis of plasma conditions and their correlation with deposited film properties. In this paper, we present a review of plasma‐assisted physical vapor deposition processes (PAPVD) used for the deposition of refractory compounds for the two basic PAPVD processes, (i.e., activated reactive evaporation and reactive sputtering). The film growth mechanism and the role of plasmas in these processes will be compared in terms of three steps in deposition processes; synthesis of the deposition species, transport from source to substrate, and film growth.

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