Cathodic Arc Plasma Deposition
32.1 Introduction ......................................................................32-1 32.2 Cathodic Arc Plasma Deposition Process .......................32-1 32.3 Cathodic Arc Sources........................................................32-3 32.4 Cathodic Arc Emission Characteristics ...........................32-3 32.5 Microdroplets ....................................................................32-4 32.6 Recent Developments........................................................32-5 References .....................................................................................32-7

H. Randhawa
Vac-Tec Systems, Inc.

32.1 Introduction
The cathodic arc plasma deposition (CAPD) method1,2 of thin film deposition belongs to a family of ion plating processes that includes evaporative ion plating3,4 and sputter ion plating.5,6 However, the CAPD process involves deposition species that are highly ionized and posses higher ion energies than other ion plating processes. All the ion plating processes have been developed to take advantage of the special process development features and to meet particular requirements for coatings, such as good adhesion, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and decorative properties. The cathodic arc technique, having proved to be extremely successful in cutting tool applications, is now finding much wider ranging applications in the deposition of erosion resistance, corrosion resistance, decorative coatings, and architectural and solar coatings.

32.2 Cathodic Arc Plasma Deposition Process
In the CAPD process, material is evaporated by the action of one or more vacuum arcs, the source material being the cathode in the arc circuit (Figure 32.1). The basic coating system consists of a vacuum chamber, a cathode and an arc power supply, an arc ignitor, an anode, and substrate bias power supply. Arcs are sustained by voltages in the range of 15 to 50 V, depending on the source material; typical arc currents in the range of 30 to 400 A are employed. When high currents are used, an arc spot splits into multiple spots on the cathode surface, the number depending on the cathode material. This is illustrated in Figure 32.2 for a titanium source. In this case, an average arc current/arc spot is about 75 A. The arc spots move randomly on the surface of the cathode, typically at speeds of the order of tens of meters per second. The arc spot motion and speed can be further influenced by external means such as magnetic fields, gas pressures during coatings, and electrostatic fields. Materials removal from the source occurs as a series of rapid flash evaporation events as the arc spot migrates over the cathode surface. Arc spots, which are sustained as a result of the material plasma generated by the arc itself, can be controlled with appropriate boundary shields and/or magnetic fields.

© 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

© 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group.2 Number of arc spots on the titanium cathode arc source as a function of arc current. Third Edition Gas Inlet Arc Supply (−) (+) To Anode Arc Source (−) To Pump (+) Arc Supply To Anode Substrate (−) Bias Supply (+) ?? ?? ?? ?? FIGURE 32. FIGURE 32.1 Schematic of a cathode arc deposition system. LLC .32-2 Coatings Technology Handbook.

1. Good quality films over a wide range of deposition conditions (e. Ease of producing reacted compound films 32. Typical thickness uniformity observed using an 8 in. It is generally necessary to use a multitude of such sources to obtain a reasonable coating quality.. The arc spot is typically a few micrometers in size and carries current densities as high as 10 A/µm2. in a photograph of a typical large area source. Cathodes using magnetic fields or boundary shields are limited to small sizes of the order of a few inches in diameter. in case of Ti. High deposition rates for metals. LLC .3) with predetermined electronic characteristics may be built much larger and over a wide range of sizes. and microdroplets.3 Cathodic Arc Sources A schematic cross section of a cathodic arc source is shown as an inset in Figure 32. These characteristics of CAPD result in deposits that are of superior quality in comparison to other plasma processes. and compounds with excellent coating uniformity 3.g. The electrons are accelerated toward the cloud of positive ions. A high percentage (30 to 100%) of evaporation material is ionized. 3. Some of its characteristic features are as follows: 1. Low substrate temperature 4. the target utilization of such arc sources exceeds 70% — much higher in comparison to the magnetron sputtering source (N 40%).4.5 shows such results for copper. The average current carried per spot depends on the nature of the cathode material.g. Such cathode sources provide good uniformity over a wide range of substrate sizes in various industrial applications. These ions are ejected in a direction almost perpendicular to the cathode surface.. Emissions from the cathode spots are illustrated in Figure 32. however. and the resulting evaporant consists of electrons. Figure 32.1. Ti+. The method of arc confinement is a key factor in arc source design and configuration. an anode. The microdroplets. chromium. have been postulated to leave the cathode surface at angles up to about 30° above the cathode plane. Retention of alloy composition from source to deposit 5. It is likely that almost 100% of the material may be ionized within the cathode spot region. and tantalum. etc. The extreme physical conditions present within cathode spots are listed in Table 32. This limits the uniformity attained from such sources. ions. × 20 in. Ti2+. titanium cathode at a source to substrate distance of 10 in.4 Cathodic Arc Emission Characteristics The cathodic arc results in a plasma discharge within the material vapor released from the cathode surface. 2. The ions possess very high kinetic energies (10 to 100 eV). Ti3+. Furthermore. The material plasma is generated by one or more arc spots. Arc sources employing confinement passive boarders (Figure 32. 32. © 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group. Some of these advantages are as follows: 1. This high current density causes flash evaporation of the source material.Cathodic Arc Plasma Deposition 32-3 CAPD is markedly different from the physical vapor deposition process. an arc ignitor. 4. was approximately 10% over a flat area measuring 5 in. The microdroplet emission is a result of extreme temperatures and forces that are present within emission craters. The microdroplet emission is greater for metals with low boiling points. stoichiometric reached films with enhanced adhesion and film density can be obtained over a wide range of reactive gas pressures and evaporation rates) 2. neutral vapor atoms.). The ions exist in multiple charge states (e. The arc source comprises a cathode (source material). × 24 in. The emissions from the cathode spots split into a number of spots. alloys. and a means of arc confinement.

hence. Zirconium nitride films. the size and density of the microdroplets. The arc motion of a conventional arc source was studied using a very high speed photographic technique. This is illustrated for films of titanium and zirconium nitrides and titanium dioxide. exhibit a much lower density of much smaller microdroplets (N 0. The microdroplets are found to be metal-rich in composition in the case of reacted compound films. © 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group. It is believed that the smaller microdroplets result from the higher melting point and low vapor pressure of zirconium coupled with the higher arc spot velocity observed on a zirconium cathode surface. thus. microdroplet density and size vary with the material. The application of suitable external magnetic fields was found to enhance the arc speed to 17 m/sec. Parameters and source design are the key factors that influence the density and size of the microdroplets. In an uncontrolled situation. The source design as well as the operating gas pressure during deposition had an effect on the microdroplet emission. The arc speed was measured to be approximately 8 m/sec. LLC . it minimizes localized overheating and.3 Typical large-area cathodic arc source.2 µm). The higher arc spot velocity results in a low mean residence time of the arc spot on a given localized area. Third Edition FIGURE 32. A corresponding reduction in macroparticles was observed. deposited under the same conditions as titanium nitride. As previously reported. A new arc source using these modified microdroplets could be totally illuminated. very high microdroplet densities may be produced and deposited onto the substrates. as shown in Figure 32.6.32-4 Coatings Technology Handbook.1 to 0. Microdroplet size and density can be controlled in the arc deposition process. 32.5 Microdroplets Microdroplets are emitted as one of the products of the flash evaporation events.

wear. Films of TiO2 and ZrO2 were deposited in a reactive mode using an oxygen–gas mixture. carbides. Zr.Cathodic Arc Plasma Deposition 32-5 Anode Cathode + Ion Cloud Electrons Metal Ions Metal Vapor Metal Ions Droplets Neutral Atoms FIGURE 32.4 Emission characteristics of a cathodic arc source. W/cm–2 Electric field. Hf. V/cm–1 Current density. oxide of copper. (Ti–Al). and so on. Deposition. characterization. (Ti–Zr)(Ti–6Al–4V). and decorative applications. Thin films of tin. solar reduction applications. and performance evaluations of nitrites. © 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group. barrier films. TABLE 32. etc.1 Physical Conditions: Cathode Arc Spot Temperature (K) Pressure. zirconium dioxide. A/cm–2 4 × 103–104 0. and carbonitrites of several materials [Ti.6 Recent Developments A major interest in the cathodic arc process until recently has been in the deposition of hard coatings for tribology. In fact. Mpa Power density. TiO2 films with a sharp cutoff at approximately 400 nm were found to be very suitable for UV filters.1–10 107–109 104–105 106–108 32. ZrO2 and TiO2 films with very low absorption (<5%) in the visible light range and excellent adhesion to plastics and glass substrates have been deposited. and other metallic materials have been investigated for these applications.] using the cathodic arc deposition process have been investigated in detail and will not be discussed here. titanium dioxide. Some of the most recent developments involve deposition of oxides and multicomponent materials for architectural glass. zirconium nitride. LLC .

© 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group.50 kv Cu 30 kv 002 Cr 1. 1. Third Edition 1.5 Microdroplet emission from metals having different melting points. LLC .32-6 Coatings Technology Handbook.00 kv Ta 30 kv 014 FIGURE 32.6 Scanning electron micrographs showing surface topography of various films using modified arc technology.50 kv TiN ZrN 30 kv 003 TiO2 FIGURE 32.

33. Patent No. Technol. The cathodic arc deposition process has proved to be capable of fulfilling the most exacting demands in applications as diverse as tool coatings. in Deposition Technologies for Films and Coatings. References 1. “A review. 303 (1987).g. 6. W. © 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group. H. 2. Johnson.S.. A deposition rate as high as 10 times that of magnetron sputtering for production scale was demonstrated. Developments are continuing to broaden the range of various potential applications of the cathodic arc.. 5. 1982. L. C. Ed. LLC . This makes cathodic arc an excellent choice for multicomponent materials. U. Johnson. Randhawa and P. Mullarie. 3. Thin Film Processes. R. Orlando. Kem. H. Surf. 53 (1987). Vossen and W. Randhawa. H..184 (1984). 1987. and turbine engine coatings. architectural glass coatings. The film composition as analyzed by spectroscopic techniques (e. F.. 31. 4. Coat. Park Ridge.Cathodic Arc Plasma Deposition 32-7 TiN and ZrN films deposited by cathodic arc have also been investigated for architectural glass coatings. Thornton. The deposition rates and stoichiometry control were found to be superior to magnetron sputtering. C. Coat. Multicomponent films consisting of Inconel and Ni–Cr–Al–Y alloys have also been successfully deposited at rates as high as 1 mm/min. J. Randhawa and P. Eds. decorative coatings. FL. A.430. NJ: Noyes Publications. Bunshah. J. Technol. New York: Academic Press.” Surf. 1978. ESCA and AES) was found to be within 10 to 15% of the source material. M. 4. presented at ASM International Strategic Machining and Materials Conference.

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