Physical vapor deposition (PVD) describes a variety of vacuum deposition methods which can be used to produce thin films. PVD uses physical process (such as heating or sputtering) to produce a vapor of material, which is then deposited on the object which requires coating. PVD is used in the manufacture of items which require thin films for mechanical, optical, chemical or electronic functions. Examples include semiconductor devices such as thin film solar panels, aluminized PET film for food packaging and balloons, and coated cutting tools for metalworking. Besides PVD tools for fabrication, special smaller tools (mainly for scientific purposes) have been developed.Common industrial coatings applied by PVD are titanium nitride, zirconium nitride, chromium nitride, titanium aluminum nitride.The source material is unavoidably also deposited on most other surfaces interior to the vacuum chamber, including the fixturing used to hold the parts.
Cathodic arc deposition or Arc-PVD is a physical vapor deposition technique in which an electric arc is used to vaporize material from a cathode target. The vaporized material then condenses on a substrate, forming a thin film. The technique can be used to deposit metallic, ceramic, and composite films.
Evaporation is a common method of thin-film deposition. The source material is evaporated in a vacuum. The vacuum allows vapor particles to travel directly to the target object (substrate), where they condense back to a solid state. Evaporation is used in microfabrication, and to make macro-scale products such as metallized plastic film.
Sputter deposition is a physical vapor deposition (PVD) method of thin film deposition by sputtering. This involves ejecting material from a "target" that is a source onto a "substrate" such as a silicon wafer. Resputtering is re-emission of the deposited material during the deposition process by ion or atom bombardment. Sputtered atoms ejected from the target have a wide energy distribution, typically up to tens of eV (100,000 K). The sputtered ions (typically only a small fraction of the ejected particles are ionized — on the order of 1%) can ballistically fly from the target in straight lines and impact energetically on the substrates or vacuum chamber (causing resputtering). Alternatively, at higher gas pressures, the ions collide with the gas atoms that act as a moderator and move diffusively, reaching the substrates or vacuum chamber wall and condensing after undergoing a random walk. The entire range from high-energy ballistic impact to low-energy thermalized motion is accessible by changing the background gas pressure. The sputtering gas is often an inert gas such as argon. For efficient momentum transfer, the atomic weight of the sputtering gas should be close to the atomic weight of the target, so for sputtering light elements neon is preferable, while for heavy elements krypton or xenon are used. Reactive gases can also be used to sputter compounds. The compound can be formed on the target surface, in-flight or on the substrate depending on the process parameters. The availability of many parameters that control sputter deposition make it a complex process, but also allow experts a large degree of control over the growth and microstructure of the film.
Reactive sputtering: In reactive sputtering, the sputtered particles undergo a chemical reaction before coating the substrate. The deposited film is therefore different from the target material. The chemical reaction that the particles undergo is with a reactive gas introduced into the sputtering chamber such as oxygen or nitrogen; oxide and nitride films are often fabricated using reactive sputtering. The composition of the film can be controlled by varying the relative pressures of the inert and reactive gases. Film stoichiometry is an important parameter for optimizing functional properties like the stress in SiNx and the index of refraction of SiOx.