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Anomalous Skin Effect in Thin Films

G. R. Henry
Citation: Journal of Applied Physics 43, 2996 (1972); doi: 10.1063/1.1661647
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supported in part by the Direction des Recherches et

Moyens d'Essais under contract No. 533/68.

If we take the reduced variable

=mw 2/2kT e , we obtain


We show that recombination occurs mainly on the resonance level R Il RIO.

For our range of densities, recombination is mainly
collisional, and we can evaluate RI1 and RIO, noting that
if local thermodynamic equilibrium occurs, we have
a microreversibility between the collisional processes
O=i and 1 =i; we obtain
wI " wQ o_l (w)f(w)41TW 2 dw ,

gl fo'" Ql_l(u+ut)e- U(u+uf)du


go fo'" QO_i(U+Ui)e-U(u+u;)du

For a cold plasma (Te:S 104 OK, the principal contribution to the two integrals of Eq. (A1) is due to small
energies tmw 2 in the region where the two functions
(u+ut)Q1-l(u+ut) and (u+ul)Qo_l(u+ud verify l
(U+Uf'jQl_I(U+Un (u+U;)QO_I(U+U;) ,

yielding RI1 R lo .
tmw~ and tm (w t)2 are, respectively, the ionization
energy for levels 0 and 1.



)f(w )41TW 2dw

no fw: WQO_I (w)f(w)41TW 2dw

= nl fwt WQl

* Equipe de Recherche du Centre

National de la Recherche
IN. Peyraud, J. Phys. (Paris) 30, 773 (1969).
2L. A. Shelepin, and L. I. Gudzenko, Soviet Phys. Doklady

We obtain the ratio

_I (w

In the ratio R I1 /R IO, nt/no is the Boltzmann ratio, and f

is Maxwellian at Te.

10, 147 (1965).

3V. A. Abramov and B. M. Smirnov, Opt. Spectros. (USSR) 21
(No. I), 9 (1966).
4The collision frequency 1J is, in the first approximation, as-

sumed to be constant.

Anomalous Skin Effect in Thin Films

G.R. Henry*
IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York 10598
(Received 22 February 1971)

Numerical calculations are presented for the impedance per square of metallic films. We
consider in detail the case in which the mean free path of the conduction electrons is comparable to or greater than the film thickness (thin films at low temperatures), with particular attention to the transition between the dc limit and the anomalous skin-effect limit.


Electrical impedance has been studied in many materials under various conditions. Here we discuss theoretically some aspects of impedance relevant to thin metallic films at low temperatures. The surface impedance
per square 1 is considered as a function of electrical
frequency, film thickness, and mean free path of the
conduction electrons. The primary purpose of this paper is to examine in detail the behavior of the impedance of a film where the skin depth is about equal to
the film thickness, a region where asymptotic formulas
do not apply. Thus, a bridge is established between,
for example, the anomalous skin-effect and the sizelimited dc regions. The most important restrictions in
this treatment are that the conductor be metallic (i. e. ,
that the Fermi surface be spherical or nearly spherical), and that the frequency be low enough to make the
displacement-current and electron-relaxation effects
negligible. All of these conditions are usually met by
conductors in integrated circuits; the considerations of
this paper are relevant to the possible use of integrated
circuits at cryogenic temperatures, where the mean
free path may be equal to or greater than the classical
skin depth2 and/or the conductor thickness.

In calculations throughout this paper we choose the

symmetric boundary condition that the electric field be
the same on both sides of the film. 3 Other boundary
conditions are briefly discussed in Sec. IV. In Fig. 1,
a "map" is shown4 indicating regions where various
asymptotic formulas apply. Note that if one picks any
point on the map initially and then the mean free path
l is reduced, one is carried into the upper right quadrant, corresponding to the classical limit (either dc or
skin effect). Although three lengths are involved, one
length (chosen here as the mean free path l) merely
establishes the over-all scale, and the remaining two
(film thickness t and classical skin depth 15) then determine the important physical effects.
The impedance is approximately given by the following
formulas 5 in the various regions:
classical dc,



classical skin effect, 6

z=t(1 +i)1/al5;


size-limited dc, 7

1. Appl. Phys., Vol. 43, No.7, July 1972

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where a denotes the conductivity of the metal. This expreSSion is exact, and applies for all values of tlo.



FIG. 1. Map indicating approximate regions of validity for

various asymptotic formulas for the impedance of thin films,
in terms of til (ratio of film thickness to electron mean free
path) and oil (ratio of classical skin depth to electron mean
free path).

4(1 )

Z=:3 al In(llt);


anomalous skin effect, 8


Z - -1(12)1/6(1)
- (1 + Y3i) - 4 7r2

This result is of course well known,6 and is presented

only for comparison to a more involved case where the
mean free path cannot be neglected. The magnitude of
the impedance is plotted in Fig. 2, in dimensionless
form applicable to any conductor. Figure 3 shows the
phase of the impedance. It is interesting to note that as
we go from the dc (large skin depth) region to the skineffect region, both the magnitude and phase of the impedance "overshoot" the skin-effect asymptotes and then
return to them. In fact, explicit calculation shows that
both the magnitude and phase oscillate about their
asymptotes in a very heavily damped sine wave of wavelength 21T in the ratio tlo. The choice of ordinate in Fig.
2, at I Z I , is particularly convenient when considering
the impedance as a function of frequency (and, therefore of 0) at a given film thickness t. To consider the
impedance for various thicknesses at constant frequency, a more convenient ordinate would be ao I ZI = (01
t)at I Z I . It is easy to see that in terms of this new ordinate, both asymptotes are rotated counter clockwise by
45, and the "overshoot" discussed above becomes an
absolute minimum in impedance. In other words, considered as a function of frequency the impedance has no
minimum; at constant frequency, however, there is a
film thickness which minimizes the impedance. The
minimum occurs at tlo = 2.365, at which point the magnitude of the impedance is given by


zl =1.46



In the latter two expressions, as in the rest of this paper, we have assumed that any electron striking the
face of the film is scattered in a completely diffuse
(nonspecular) manner, as is suggested by direct measurement. Remarkably enough, the anomalous skineffect impedance is hardly changed in making the opposite assumption8 (of complete specularity), although
there is no longer any size effect for dc, 7 with the impedance given by (at)-1 irrespective of I. By convention,
an inductive reactance is a positive imaginary impedance.

aol zl

=0.619 =0. 707/1.14.


The latter expression indicates that the impedance minimum is lower by a factor of 1.14 than the skin-effect

In Sec. II we discuss the "classical" limit (where the

mean free path of the conduction electrons is arbitrarily
small) giving analytical results. Numerical results in
the more complicated case of long mean free paths (l
comparable to t and/or 0) are presented in Sec. III, and
concluding remarks are made in Section IV.



The classical limit applies to situations where the electron mean free path may be neglected. In this case
Ohm's law, J = aE, applies point by point throughout the
Neglecting the displacement current, an analytic expression for the impedance per square is easily derived
in this limit:


(2!a) [sinh(tj 0) + sin(tjo)

1+ i[sinh(t/o) - sin(tl 0) 1
cosh(tjo) - cos(tjo)


O. I L---'--'-'-.L.LLJ..J.l_-L-L--'-.JLLLJ...LL_---"------"---..L.L-'--LJuJ

FIG. 2. Magnitude of impedance per square in the classical
(small mean free path) limit. With the boundary conditions
chosen, current flows on both sides of the film in the skineffect limit, so that the impedance is half as large as that
associated with the surface of a semi-infinite conductor.
J. Appl. Phys., Vol. 43, No.7, July 1972

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~ 40



~ 30


given point now depends not only on the electric field at

that point, but also on the field that existed in the recent past within roughly a mean free path of the point in
question. Pippard8 has quoted a very lucid, simple
derivation (due to Chambers) of the generalized form
of Ohm's law that applies when the mean free path is
taken into account; the result (which has also been obtained more formally) is found to be
J(t 0) = ~f r(r









FIG. 3. Phase of the impedance per square in the classical

(small mean free path) limit. In the skin-effect limit, the resistive and reactive components of impedance are equal, as
implied by the 45 phase asymptote.

limit (for which alilZI =0.707).

This overshoot, or minimum, may be understood as a
rather muted thin-film interference phenomenon. It
turns out to be somewhat easier to think about the resistance rather than the magnitude of the impedance.
First, if t Ii, the electric field is essentially constant
in magnitude and phase through the film. As the film becomes thicker, the resistance falls in the usual dc manner. At some thickness, however, the field begins to
vary appreciably inside the film, both in phase and
magnitude. In fact, at a thickness t=rrli it is easy to
show that the field at the center of the film is 90 out of
phase with the surface field. Should the thickness be increased a bit beyond this point, the resistive component of the current in the central region of the film will
cancel some of the resistive current flowing near the
surface; thus a small increase from t= rrli leads to an
increase in the film resistance, and we would expect
the resistance to be minimum at t= rrli. This is indeed
found to be the case. The size of the effect is fairly
small, owing to the heavy damping of the field within
the film: The magnitudes of the field and current at the
center of the film are substantially reduced from those
at the surface. Thus instead of a sine-wave interference
pattern typical of light in transparent films for example,
we barely see the first half-wave of the interference
phenomenon. Similar considerations apply to the magnitude of the impedance, although it is more difficult to
find the minimum with simple physical arguments.
These qualitative features of the dc-to-skin-effect
transition persist and become more pronounced as the
mean free path of the conduction electrons become
longer (see Sec. In).

The only essential complication introduced by consideration of nonzero mean free paths is that Ohm's law becomes effectively nonlocal. The current density at a

[E(r)])e-~/I dV


where the origin is chosen to be the point at which the

current is evaluated. The brackets around E(r) indicate
that it is to be evaluated at the time t - r/~, where ~
denotes the Fermi velocity of the conduction electrons;
however, the neglect of electron relaxation effects implies that the electric field is essentially constant over
the time interval l/~, and we may therefore drop the
The integration in Eq. (7) extends over all space; in applying the result to a sheet of finite thickness, it is
necessary to consider what happens at the faces of the
sheet. As stated above, we assume that the electrons
are scattered diffusely from the faces of the film; in
this case electrons just scattered from a surface look
like electrons arriving from a field-free region outside
the film. Thus we may set E =0 outside the film or,
equivalently, restrict the integration to the volume occupied by the film.
For a film of thickness t, perpendicular to the z axis
(with the faces at 0 and t), it is found that, for currents
and fields tangential to the film,
J(z) = !~ i t K(Z




=f" (l/s _1/s3)e-slul ds.


Neglecting the displacement current, we obtain from

Maxwell's equations
so that
d E(z) _ .~ J:.... (tK(Z' -Z) E( ')d '
dz2 -z2 li21Jo
Z z.


Equation (11) is a particularly simple type of integrodifferential equation; the method used for numerical
solution is indicated in the Appendix. Once the E field
has been determined, the impedance is easily computed;
it is simply
Z=E(O) [j/J(Z)dz}-l


and we can use Eq. (10) again, to give the impedance in

terms of the E field and its first derivative at the surface of the film:

Z= +[E (dE)-l]
Ii a



where symmetric boundary conditions have been assumed.

J. Appl. Phys., Vol. 43, No.7, July 1972

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as the frequency increases from zero we pass first

from the classical dc region to the classical skin-effect
region, and finally to the anomalous skin-effect region.
In this case the phase would show a plateau at 45, between the 60 and zero limits.
It is difficult to give simple physical arguments for the

more pronounced interference effects in the long mean

free path case. In essence, it turns out that the E field
is in some sense more lightly damped than in the claSSical case.














The over-all features of the impedance of metallic films

are established above, under the restrictions that electron relaxation and displacement current can be neglected. The latter condition is equivalent to the dielectric relaxation time of the conductor being short
compared to w- 1 , and for most metals represents a less
severe restriction than that involving electron relaxation, particularly at low temperatures. It is reasonable
to require (in order to make electron relaxation unimportant)
2rrj=w ~/l,

~,--_ _ _

where ~ is the Fermi velocity of the metal. Actually,

expression (14) turns out to be too restrictive at low
temperatures where the mean free path becomes longer
than the classical skin depth; a more realistic condition
is that8


' ......

2rrj=w ~/l,





2rrj=w ~/(lo)1/2,



11.1.=2- 6




FIG. 4 (a) Magnitude of impedance per square as a function of

classical skin depth (and therefore of frequency, implicitly) for
various choices of film thickness. (b) Continuation of Fig. 4(a)
over a wider range. The "overshoot" becomes more pronounced as conditions become more anomalous (as til becomes
smaller), and is moderately enhanced over the classical case.

The results of solving Eqs. (11) and (13) are presented

in Figs. 4 and 5, in a form independent of material; the
magnitude of the impedance is given through the dimensionless quantity o-l!Z!, as a function of oil and
parametrized by til. The phase of the impedance is also
shown for a range of oil and til. In the dc limit, the
phase goes to zero as expected (no inductive reactance),
while in the anomalous skin-effect region the phase is
asymptotic to 60 in accord with the result that the inductive reactance is greater than the resistance by a
factor of ..f3.
It is clear that the behavior of the impedance in the

long mean free path situa tion is qualitatively simila r to

that in the classical region, although the "overshoot"
or "minimum" tends to be somewhat more pronounced.
The curves presented in Figs. 4 and 5 correspond to
transitions from the dc size-limited region directly to
the anomalous skin-effect region, which is of greatest
importance for very thin films. For a film with t l,


ffiw 60r--.L.---------'~-----\,__








FIG. 5. (a) Phase of impedance per square as a function of

classical skin depth (and therefore of frequency, implicitly) for
the film thickness shown in Fig. 4(a). (b) Continuation of Fig.
5(a) to film thicknesses shown in Fig. 4(b). Again the "overshoot" is more pronounced than in the classical case.
J. Appl. Phys., Vol. 43, No.7, July 1972

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From Eqs. (15) we find for copper at room temperature

f 3 x 1013 Hz,


while at temperatures lower than about 30 oK,

f5 x 109 Ts/3 Hz,

= - 2'3

d 2g

lx2 =





2' 1)2 10


K(x - x')g(x') dx' ,


K(x - x')f(x') dx'.


where the temperature T is in degrees Kelvin. The

numerical results presented above are therefore applicable to frequencies of interest in most circuit applications. Detailed consideration has been given to the
operation of logic circuitry at low temperatures by
Keyes, Harris, and Konnerth. 9
From the over-all similarity of the numerical calculations to the classical case, it may be possible to draw
some rough conclusions about other geometries and
boundary conditions from the classical case. 6 If the
boundary conditions are chosen as "one sided" (E
specified on one side, outgoing plane wave on the other
side), one has in the classical case
Zone olded(t) '" 2Z.ym(2t).

d 2f



This result depends essentially on the great impedance

mismatch between the conducting sheet and free space,
which ensures nearly perfect reflectivity at the faces.
Finally, the results for planar films continue to hold
approximately for cylindrical films (with the driving
fields on the inner and/or outer faces) if the film thickness is small compared to the radius of the cylinder. It
may reasonably be expected that these classical results continue to apply very roughly in the anomalous
region. The appropriate boundary conditions depend of
course on the specific problem addressed. In performing impedance measurements by introducing the film
into a microwave cavity, for example, symmetric (or
other) boundary conditions are easily realized. In circuitry, the symmetric case discussed above applies to
a shielded strip line (planar center conductor between
two ground planes); a strip line on a single ground
plane involves the "one sided" boundary conditions mentioned above in Eq. (18), but not explicitly solved in the
anomalous skin-effect limit.

The author wishes to thank R. W. Keyes for pointing out

the interest of this problem and for many helpful suggestions. Extended discussions with E. P. Harris on
both mathematical and physical aspects of this problem
were invaluable. We also thank A. F. Mayadas and M.
Shatzkes for interesting discussions.

Breaking the film thickness into N intervals, we have,

approximately, at each of the N + 1 points at the ends of
the N intervals,


where Kmn=K(x m -xn), gn=g(x n), and fn=f(x n). Note

that K(O) diverges. In such intervals, K(O) was replaced by the average value of K over the interval. Vmn
and w" are appropriate weight factors for differentiation
and integration, respectively. Since m takes on N + 1
values, we have N + 1 pairs of equations for a nominal
2N + 2 variables. Actually, the equations in general
have no solution at this point (they are homogeneous
equations, and the relevant determinant need not be
zero). We could not expect a unique solution anyway,
since no boundary conditions have been imposed.
Equations (A2) form a very convenient starting point for
imposition of boundary conditions. For example, we
choose in this paper to make E real and unity on both
faces of the film, or in other words, fl = fN +1 = 1, gl
=gN+I =0. With this choice we now have 2N +2 inhomogenous equations for the remaining 2N - 2 variables.
The "overdetermination" is an artifact of the numerical
approximation technique: for N = 108 there is "relatively
little" overdetermination, on the way to the continuum
limit N - 00. It would be efficient to use all of the equations to determine the best-fit solution on the basis of
some sort of least-squares criterion; in practice we
found it convenient simply to solve a subset of 2N - 2
equations (by choosing different subsets one gets some
feeling for the accuracy, through the slight scatter in
As is characteristic in the numerical solution of integral equations, increasing the number of intervals increases the number of equations to be solved, which
turns out to be a fairly severe problem. In the work
reported here the effective limit appeared to be reached
at an average phase change (in the E field) per interval
of about 15. All computation was carried out in APL/
360, in a 32Kbyte "workspace".


The techniques used for numerical solution of Eq. (11)

are essentially those used for integral equations and
will only be briefly discussed here. In essence, the
complex equation (11) is first written as two real coupled equations, and the integrals are approximated by
sums, the derivatives by polynomial differentiation
formulas. The resulting set of linear algebraic equations is then solved.
Defining a dimensionless coordinate, x=z/l, and two
real functions by E=f+ig, Eq. (11) becomes, with no

*Present address: IBM Systems Development Division, Dept.

K-16, Monterey and Cottle Roads, San Jose, Calif. 95114.
lIn a planar film with current flowing parallel to the faces of
the film, consider any square of the film with edges parallel
and perpendicular to the current flow. The surface impedance
of this square is defined as the ratio of the potential difference between the perpendicular edges (at the film surface) to
the total current flowing through the perpendicular edges.
This impedance is readily seen to be independent of the size
of the square..
2In nonmagnetic metals the classical skin depth is given by
0= C(21TW<T)-1/ 2 (cgs units), 0 = c(4m,O>I/ 2(21Tw<T)-1/ 2 (MKS units),
with W the angular frequency, c the velocity of light, and <T
the bulk conductivity of the metal.

J. Appl. Phys., Vol. 43, No.7, July 1972

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3This boundary condition clearly applies in the DC limit; we
choose to retain it at nonzero frequencies as well.
4The precise boundaries chosen are of course somewhat
arbitrary and depend slightly on the parameter of interest
(e.g., magnitude of impedance, resistance, etc.).
5All equations in this paper (except those of Ref. 2) are
written so as to be valid in both cgs and MKS units.
6S. Ramo and J. R. Whinnery, Fields and Waves in Modern


Radio (Wiley, New York, 1953).

lE.H. Sondheimer, Advan. Phys. 1, 1 (1952).
sA. B. Pippard, Advances in Electronics and Electron Physics,
edited by L. Marton (Academic, New York, 1954), Vol. 'VI,
p. 1. This paper gives an excellent discussion of the anomalous skin effect from first principles.
9R.W. Keyes, E.P. Harris, andK.L. Konnerth, Proc. IEEE,
58, 1914 (1970).

Relativistic Electron Beam Propagation in Low-Pressure Gases*

P.A. Miller, J.B. Gerardo, andJ.W. Poukey
Sandia Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87115
(Received 27 January 1972; in final form 24 March 1972)

Studies of the propagation of pulsed relativistic electron beams through initially un-ionized
background gases are reported. At very low pressures, pronounced beam front erosion occurs owing to the slow buildup of radial force neutralization of the beam electrons. Numerical simulation and an approximate analytical model are used to describe this beam-loss process. The results of experiments with two different electron accelerators (p/y ~ O. 05 and 1)
are shown to be in good quantitative agreement with the mathematical descriptions over the
pressure range of ~ 1 1.1 to ~ 1 Torr in a large variety of gases. Propagation characteristics
are found to scale in pressure from gas to gas inversely with the high-energy ionization
cross sections of the gases. The study shows that direct ionization alone is sufficient to explain the experimental results. The theoretical calculations indicate that the low-pressure
propagation characteristics of the lower JJ/Y beam are sensitive indicators of the beam's
transverse energy. The calculations also indicate that this is not the case for the higher
JJ/y beam.

In recent years, pulsed electron accelerators capable

of delivering up to hundreds of thousands of amperes of
megavolt electrons for tens of nanoseconds have been
developed. Beams from these machines are of interest
for material studies, 1-3 generation of x rays, microwaves4 and neutrons, plasma heating, 5 ion acceleration, 6,7 and ignition of fusion reactions. 8 In a typical
machine configuration, a high voltage is applied between
a field emission cathode and a thin foil anode; electrons
are accelerated through the anode into a drift region in
which they are transported to a target. The transport
medium which may provide electrostatic and magnetic
neutralization of the beam fields may be simply an
initially un-ionized gas or a preformed plasma 9- 12 with
or without guiding magnetic fields. Equilibrium configurations for intense relativistic electron beams
propagating through such media have been investigated
by several authors. 13-18 In this paper we present the
results of a study of one aspect of the beam transport
problem, namely, the initial buildup of ionization and
the development of radial force neutralization which
occurs when a high-energy electron beam first enters
an initially un-ionized background gas.
The problem which we address may be described as
follows: An electron beam is injected into a gas-filled
cylindrical drift tube which is several times larger in
diameter than the beam. The beam drifts down the drift
tube and is collected by a Faraday cup whose aperture
is equal to the tube cross section. The front of the beam
expands rapidly as the beam propagates due to spacecharge repulsion; in this manner, much of the beam is
lost to the tube walls if the background pressure is too
low (e. g., 0.1 Torr) to provide rapid space-charge
neutralization. Actually, only fractional space-charge
neutralization is required for the beam to drift without

expansion because the beam's self-magnetic fields tend

to constrict the beam. Higher gas pressures allow more
rapid radial force neutralization and thus more efficient
propagation. The necessity of space-charge neutralization for efficient transport has been well recognized for
some time, but a self-consistent model of its development which agrees with experimental results has not
previously been presented. Mathematical models are
presented here which evaluate space-charge blowup
losses as a function of drift-tube gas pressure, and the
calculated Faraday cup current waveforms are compared with measured currents.
A useful measure of the effect of an electron beam's
self-magnetic fields on the beam electrons' orbits is the
ratio lilY; it is equal to the ratio of the beam current to
the Alfven19 current limit (17 00013y). The Larmor radius
of an electron in a lilY == 1 beam (with no magnetic neutralization) is about equal to one-half of the beam radius. Beams from two different accelerators with lI/y
-0.05 (1. 5 MeV, 3 kA) and -1 (350 keV, 25 kA) were
transported through a variety of gases in order to check
the validity of our calculations over a wide range of parameters.
In Secs. II and III of this paper we present two conceptually different theoretical analyses of the radial force
neutralization problem. The first consists of a multiparticle numerical Simulation; the second consists of
solving a differential equation for a single particle trajectory. While it is felt that the Simulation is basically
the more trustworthy of the two, the analytical approach
gives essentially the same results and is advantageous
because it consumes much less computer time (e. g. ,
12 sec vs 20 min of CDC 6600 time for one waveform).
In Sec. IV the experimental apparatus is described and
in Sec. V experimental results are compared with theJ. Appl. Phys., Vol. 43, No.7, July 1972

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