The oxygen partial pressure and the target potential have been monitored under a range of process conditions during single target direct‐current (dc) magnetron sputtering of Y–Ba–Cu–O. The introduced sputtering gas consisted in most instances of pure argon and hence the oxygen present in the plasma originated mainly from the target. During the first hours of sputtering the oxygen partial pressure was of the same magnitude as the argon pressure (3.0 Pa) and the film composition was off stoichiometric. During the sputtering the oxygen pressure decreased, the target potential increased and the film composition became more stoichiometric. After 30–40 h of sputtering the target potential and the oxygen pressure stabilized and the film composition was equal to that of the stoichiometric target. If an oxygen flow exceeding a critical level was mixed into the sputtering gas the target potential and the deposition rate decreased swiftly. This was due to target oxidation. In some instances the stabilization after ‘‘presputtering’’ in pure argon was incomplete and oscillations in target voltage and oxygen partial pressure were observed. The fluctuations made it virtually impossible to obtain stoichiometric films. The oscillative behavior of the sputtering process is tentatively explained by a target temperature dependent oxygen diffusion.

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