Chapter 4

Discharges, Plasmas, and
Ion-Surface Interactions
Discharges, Plasmas, and
Ion-Surface Interactions
Sputtering
• An ionized gas or plasma
• active electrodes that participate in the deposition
• Low temperature processing
• Eject of atoms by momentum transfer

Evaporation
• Vacuum environment
• Passive electrode
• Thermally induced evaporation
Two Sputtering Systems
Several kilovolts are applied and gas pressures usually range from a few to a hundreds
millitorr.
Plasma
• Quasi-neutral gas that exhibits a collective behavior in
the presence of applied electromagnetic fields.
• Weakly ionized gases consisting of a collection of
electrons, ions, and neutral atomic and molecular species.
Types of plasmas
• Stars (density n < 10
7
cm
-3
)
• Solar winds (density n < 10
7
cm
-3
)
• Coronas (density n < 10
7
cm
-3
)
• Ionosphere (density n < 10
7
cm
-3
)
• Glow discharge (density n = 10
8
~ 10
14
cm
-3
)
• Arcs (density n = 10
8
~ 10
14
cm
-3
)
• High-pressure arc (density n ~ 10
20
cm
-3
)
• Shock tubes (density n ~ 10
20
cm
-3
)
• Fusion reactors (density n ~ 10
20
cm
-3
)
http://fusedweb.pppl.gov/CPEP/Translations.html
Principal Glow Discharge Mechanism by
Biased Parallelplate
1. A stray electron near the cathode carrying an initial current i
o
is accelerated toward
the anode by the applied electric field (E).
2. After gaining sufficient energy the electron collides with a neutral gas atom (A)
converting it into a positively charged ion (A
+
), i.e., e
-
+ A → 2e
-
+ A
+
.
3. Two electrons are generated and are accelerated and bombard two additional
neutral gas atoms, generating more ions and electrons, and so on.
4. Meanwhile, the electric field drives ions in the opposite direction.
5. Ions collide with the cathode, ejecting, among other particles, secondary electrons.
6. Secondary electrons also undergo charge multiplication. (step 2)
7. The effect snowballs until a sufficiently large avalanch current ultimately causes
the gas to breakdown.
http://webhost.ua.ac.be/plasma/pages/glow-discharge.html
Avalanche Breakdown
+ ÷ ÷
+ ÷ + A e A e 2
Townsend Equation
) 1 ( 1 ÷ ÷
=
d
e
d
o
e
e
i i
o
o
¸
electrodes between Distance d
t coeff icien emission electron secondary Townsend
t coeff icien ionization Townsend
current charge i
e
:
:
:
:
÷ ¸
o
Townsend ionization coefficient represents the probability per unit length of ionization
occurring during an electron-gas atom collision.
Townsend secondary-electron emission coefficient is the number of secondary electrons
emitted at the cathode per incident ion.

Townsend Ionization Coefficient
ì
ì
o
E q
E
i
e
÷
=
1
field electric Applied
potential Ionization E
distance traveling
charge Electron q
t coefficien ionization Townsend
i
:
:
:
:
:
E
ì
o
ì
ì
o
E q
E
i
e
÷
=
1
For an electron of charge q traveling a distance ì, the probability of reaching the
ionization energy E
i
is .
We may associate ì with the intercollision distance or mean free path in a gas. Since ì
~ P
-1
, we expect o to be a function of the system pressure.
E
n
e
r
g
y

E

Probability
ì =
· · n L A
L
A
L
P
RT
N
V
n
A
= =
#
d
2
d A t =
1
2
÷
· = P
P d N
RT
A
t
ì
Mean-Free Path
Derivation of Townsend Equation
(a) The total current I = I
-
(x) + I
+
(x), a sum of electron and ion components, is
constant, i.e., independent of x and time.
(b) At the cathode I
-
(0) = I
o
+ ¸
e
I
+
(0), with I
o
a constant.
(c) Across the gap, d[I
-
(x)]/dx = oI
-
(x), i.e., I
-
(x) = I
-
(0) exp ox.
(d) At the anode, I
+
(d) = 0.
Cathode Anode
d
x
d x
< <
0
+ ÷
Breakdown Voltage
)] 1 ( 1 [ ÷ ÷
=
d
e
d
o
e
e
i i
o
o
¸
Townsend equation
Breakdown is assumed to occur when the denominator of the Townsend equation is equal
to zero, i.e., .
1 ) 1 ( = ÷
d
e
e
o
¸
1
2
÷
· = P
P N
RT
A
| t
ì
molecule gas a of Diameter : |
ì
ì
ì ì
o
E
E
i
i V
q
E
e e
÷
÷
= =
1 1
÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ = ÷
¦
¦
)
¦
¦
`
¹
= =
B B B
d V d
e
e
E E E
1 ) 1 (
o
¸
B Pd
APd
V
B
+
=
) ln(
constants B A : ,
electrodes between Distance d
t coeff icien emission electron secondary Townsend
t coeff icien ionization Townsend
current charge i
e
:
:
:
:
÷ ¸
o
http://www.seas.ucla.edu/prosurf/Publications/paper22-IEEE.pdf
Y. P. Raizer, Gas Discharge Physics. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1991.
Paschen’s Curve
B

P
B Pd
APd
V
B
+
=
) ln(
Paschen’s Curve
At low values of Pd there are few electron-ion collisions and the secondary electron yield
is too low to sustain ionization in the discharge.
At high pressures there are frequent collisions, and since electrons do not acquire
sufficient energy to ionize gas atoms, the discharge is quenched.
Types and Structures of Discharges
Townsend discharge
A tiny current flows initially due to the small number of charge carriers in the system.
With charge multiplication, the current increases rapidly, but the voltage, limited by the
output impedance of the power supply, remains constant.
Normal glow
When enough electrons produce sufficient ions to generate the same number of initial
electrons, the discharge becomes self-sustaining.
The gas begins to glow now and the voltage drops accompanied by a sharp rise in current.
Initially, ion bombardment of the cathode is not uniform but concentrated near the
cathode edges or at other surface irregularities.
As more power is applied, the bombardment increasingly spreads over the entire surface
until a nearly uniform current density is achieved.
Abnormal discharge
A further increase in power results in both higher voltage and cathode current-density
levels.
The abnormal discharge regime has now been entered and this is the operative domain for
sputtering and other discharge processes such as plasma etching.
Arc
At still higher currents, the cathode gets hotter. Now the thermionic emission of electrons
exceeds that of secondary-electron emission and low-voltage arcs propagate.
Arc is a self-sustained discharge that supports high currents by providing its own
mechanism for electron emission from negative or positive electrodes.
http://science-education.pppl.gov/SummerInst/SGershman/Structure_of_Glow_Discharge.pdf
Current–voltage (i –V ) characteristics of direct current (dc) electrical discharge
http://www.spectroscopynow.com/Spy/pdfs/jwfeed/sample_0471606995.pdf
V
b
is the breakdown voltage,
V
n
is the normal operating voltage, and
V
d
is the operating voltage of arc discharge.
http://www.exo.net/~pauld/origins/glowdisharge.html
http://www.exo.net/~pauld/origins/glowdisharge.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_glow_discharge
Sprite light in the atmosphere (left) and in a laboratory glow discharge tube (right). In
both cases, the light near the positive (anode) end is red and arises from the collisional
excitation of neutral nitrogen molecules by free electrons. Also in both cases, the light
near the negative (cathode) end is blue and arises from the collisional excitation of N
2
+

ions by free electrons.
http://www.physicstoday.org/pt/vol-54/iss-11/captions/p41cap3.html
http://www.emitech.co.uk/sputter-coating-brief3.htm
Sprite and Glow Discharge Tube
A glass tube, about 16 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, is hermetically
sealed at both ends. Two metal probes are fused into the tube at each end. The
physicist applies a potential of a few thousand volts across both probes. With the aid
of a vacuum pump he sucks the air out of the tube, thus lowering the pressure inside
the glass tube.
http://www.newjerusalemnetwork.net/emmanuel/great_wall3.html
Regions in the DC Glow Discharge Tube
http://www.newjerusalemnetwork.net/emmanuel/great_wall3.html
Regions in the DC Glow Discharge Tube
A First of all, a narrow beam of red light moves across the inside of the tube, from
one electrode to the other. As the pressure continues to fall, the beam of light
becomes thicker and soon fills the whole space between the electrodes. Near the one
electrode there appears a blue glow, and at the other a dark space.

If the physicist continues to rarefy the air in the tube, the blue glow turns into a thin
red sheath of light close to the electrode [identified in the illustration to the top-left
as A].

B After a region of darkness, known as 'Crookes' dark space' after its discover, there
appears with a well defined edge, the palest part of the electrical discharge, a faint
blue column of light known as the 'negative glow.‘

C This blue glow fades gradually into another dark space, which is followed by a
weak red-violent glow known as the 'positive column' or 'plasma.‘

D In the final stage of the experiment, the air in the tube is rarefied until all the
discharge phenomena disappear. Then, however, the right-hand end of the glass
glows with a Green Fluorescent Light.

Pages 16-18, "Physics For The Modern Mind," Walter R. Fuchs http://www.newjerusalemnetwork.net/emmanuel/great_wall3.html
Regions in the DC Glow Discharge Tube
Regions in the DC Glow Discharge Tube
Although the general structure of the discharge has been known for a long time, the
microscopic details of the charge distributions, behavior, and interactions within these
regions are not totally understood.
Cathode
Aston dark
The Aston dark space is very thin and contains both low energy electrons and high
energy positive ions, each moving in opposite directions.
Cathode glow
Beyond the Aston dark the cathode glow appears as a highly luminous layer that
envelops and clings to the cathode.
De-excitation of positive ions through neutralization is the probable mechanism of
light emission here.
Cathode dark (Crookes)
Next to cathode glow is the cathode dark space, where some electrons are energized to
the point where they begin to impact-ionize neutrals; other lower energy electrons
impact neutrals without ion production.
Because there is relatively little ionization this region is dark.
Most of the discharge voltage is dropped across the cathode dark space.
Cathode dark space is commonly referred to as the cathode sheath.
The resulting electric field serves to accelerate ions toward their eventual collision
with the cathode.
Regions in the DC Glow Discharge Tube
Negative glow
Here the visible emission is apparently due to interactions between assorted secondary
electrons and neutrals with attendant excitation and de-excitation.
During sputtering the substrate is typically placed inside the negative glow before the
Faraday dark space so that the latter as well as the positive column do not normallt
appear.
Faraday dark
Positive column
Anode dark
Commonly referred to as the anode sheath.
Anode
Yu. P. Raizer. Gas Discharge Physics. Springer, Berlin, 1991.
Light intensity
Potential V
Field E
Current
Charge density
Charge density (total)
Potentials along the Tube
Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 12 (2003) 295–301
Regions in the Glow Discharge Tube II
Potentials along the Tube
) (
1
÷ +
÷ = N N q
dx
dE
c
E
dx
dV
÷ =
÷ +
÷ N N
0
0
Fundamental of Plasma Physics
Plasma species: electron (n
e
), ions (n
i
), and neutral gas (n
o
)
Electron has highest velocity
Electrically neutral: n
e
= n
i

Degree of gas ionization: f
i
= n
e
/(n
e
+n
o
)
f
i
= 10
-4
for glow discharge
Particle energies and temperature:
For glow discharge:
Electron energy = 1 to 10 eV (typically 2 eV)
Effective characteristic temperature T
e
= E/k
B
= 23000 K
Neutral gas energy = 0.025 eV, (T
o
= 293 K)
Ion energy = 0.04 eV (T
i
= 500 K), acquired from electric field.
Low pressure glow discharge is a nonequilibrium cold plasma.
(if in equilibrium: T
i
= T
o
= T
e
= T)

Motion in Plasma Species
q
n
j
4
v
=
Electrical current density Particle flux Charge
m
T k
B
t
8
= v 
Surface are charged negatively due to greater electron bombardment. v
e
>v
i
4
v
v
v
v
n
M
RT
n d
RT
M
RT
M
n
x
x
x
= = ÷ = u
}
·
t t 2
)
2
exp(
2
0
2
m
T k
B
t
8
= v
g m
e
28
10 1 . 9
÷
× =
K T
e
23000 =
1 2 2 23
10 38 . 1
÷ ÷ ÷
· · · × = K s kg m k
B
s cm
e
/ 10 5 . 9
7
× = v
g m
Ar i
23
23
) (
10 64 . 6
10 02 . 6
40
÷
× =
×
=
K T
i
500 =
s cm
e
/ 10 2 . 5
4
× = v
Charging of Surface in a Plasma
The implication of this calculation is that an isolated surface within the plasma charges
negatively initially because of the greater electron bombardment.
Subsequently, additional electrons are repelled while positive ions are attracted.
Therefore, the surface continues to charge negatively at a decreasing rate until the
electron flux equals the ion flux and there is no net current.
{
{
÷
÷
Mobility: velocity per unit electric field E / v = µ
Mobility in an Electric Field
v v
v v
m q
t
m q
dt
d
m
coll
+ =
c
c
+ =
E
E ] [
Collision frequency
Electric force
Frictional drag
v v
v
=
c
c
coll
t
] [ 
v
µ
v
m
q
m
q
=
=
E
v
In the steady state,
÷ = 0
dt
dv
) / ( E v = µ 
Typical mobilities for gaseous ions at 1 torr and 273 K range from ~ 4 × 10
2
cm
2
/V-s
(for Xe
+
) to 1.1 × 10
4
cm
2
/V-s (for H
+
).
Diffusion
dx
dn
D n J
dx
dn
D n J
i
i i i i
e
e e e e
÷ =
÷ ÷ =
E
E
µ
µ
Charge Neutrality, n n n J J J
i e i e
= = = = ,
dx
dn
n
D D
i e
e i
) (
) (
µ µ +
÷
= E Electric field developed by separation of charge
An electric field develops because the difference in electron and ion diffusivities
produces a separation of charge.
Physically, more electrons than ions tend to leave the plasma, establishing an electric
field that hinders further electron loss but at the same time enhances ion motion.
) (
) (
i e
i e e i
a
D D
D
µ µ
µ µ
+
÷
=
Ambipolar diffusion coefficient
Both ions and electrons diffuse faster than intrinsic ions do.
Electron Motion in Combined Electric Field
) ( B q
dt
md
F force Lorentz





× + ÷ = = v
v
E
el are parall and B E
 
surface target the to normal
e
v

0 = E



B to angle an at
e
u v
B to angle an at
e


u v
qB
m
r
r
m
B q
u
u
u
sin
) sin (
sin
2
v
v
v
= ÷
= · ·
Clearly, magnetic fields prolong the electron residence time in the discharge and
enhance the probability of ion collisions.
Electron Motion in Combined Electric Field
dicular are perpen and B E
 
Electrons emitted normally from the cathode ideally do not even reach the anode but
are trapped near the electrode where they execute a periodic hopping motion over its
surface.
0
2
2
2
2
2
2
=
÷ =
=
dt
z d
m
dt
dx
qB q
dt
y d
m
dt
dy
qB
dt
x d
m
e
e
e
E
-5.00E+03
-4.00E+03
-3.00E+03
-2.00E+03
-1.00E+03
0.00E+00
0.00E+00 2.00E-04 4.00E-04 6.00E-04 8.00E-04 1.00E-03 1.20E-03
2
) cos 1 (
c e
c
m
t qE
y
e
e ÷
÷ =
)
sin
1 (
t
t
B
t
x
c
c
e
e
÷ =
E Hz B
m
qB
frequency Cyclotron
Gauss in
e
c ) (
6
10 8 . 2 × = = e
Electron Trace
Electrons repeatedly return to the cathode at time intervals of t/e
c
.
q (Coul) E (V/m) e
c
m
e
(Kg) B (Gauss)
1.60E-19 10000 2.80E+07 9.11E-34 10
Electron Motion in Glow Discharge Plasma
dicular are perpen and B E
 
Electrons repeatedly return to the cathode at time intervals of t/e
c
.
Electron motion is strictly confined to the cathode dark space where both fields are
present.
However, if electrons stray into the negative glow region where E is small, they
describe a circular orbit before collisions may drive them either back into the dark
space or forward toward the anode.
Confinement in crossed fields prolongs the electron lifetime over and above that in
crossed fields, enhancing the ionizing efficiency near the cathode. A denser plasma
and larger discharge current result.
Radial Electric Potential around an Isolated
Positive Ion
T k
r qV
i e
B
e n r n
) (
) ( · =
0 ~ ~ V n n
i e

)
) (
1 ( ) (
) (
T k
r qV
n e n r n
B
i
T k
r qV
i e
B
+ = · =
T k
r V q n n n q
dr
r dV r
dr
d
r
B o
i
o
e i
c c
) ( ) ( )] ( [ 1
2 2
2
=
÷
÷ =
(
¸
(

¸

|
|
.
|

\
|

equation Poisson
) exp( ) (
D
r
r
q
r V
ì
÷ =
2
q n
T k
i
B o
D
c
ì =
Debye Length
Outside of a sphere of radius ì
D
there is effectively no interaction between the ion
and the rest of the plasma.
In the case of an inserted electrode, ì
D
is a measure of the plasma sheath dimension.
) exp( ) (
D
r
r
q
r V
ì
÷ =
2
q n
T k
length Debye
i
B o
D
c
ì =
eV T k
cm n
B
i
2
10
3 10
=
=
÷
cm
D
2
10 1
÷
× = ì ÷
Debye length is a measure of the size of the mobile electron cloud required to
reduce V to 0.37 (i.e., 1/e) of its initial value.
Electron Plasma Frequency
http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/plasma/lectures/node6.html http://www.irf.se/~ionogram/ionogram/javascaling/PlasmaFreqForBeg.html
When charged particles are separated by a short distance x the polarization,
P = qnx, where n = n
+
= n
÷
is the number density of the particles.
http://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/users/jelley/ESupdates05.ppt
The restoring electric field E is given by ÷ P /c
o
so
Electron plasma frequency w
p
, given by w
p
2
= ne
2
/m
e
c
o

o
nq
k kx F
c
2
= ÷ ÷ =
o
x nq
qE
dt
x d
c
2
2
2
÷ = ÷ = m
qnx P =
o
m
nq
m
k
c
e
2
= =
Electron Plasma Frequency
Hz n
m
n q
e
o e
e
e
3
2
10 98 . 8 × = =
c
e
Consider that an external electric field is suddenly turned on, displacing plasma
electrons over some length.
If it is just suddenly turned off, the electron displacement induces a field that pulls
the electrons back to their original position.
But the inertia of the electrons will cause them to overshoot the mark and
harmonically oscillate about the equilibrium site.
2
q n
T k
i
B o
D
c
ì =
e
e
B
i
B o
o e
e
D e
m
T k
q n
T k
m
n q
v = = =
2
2
c
c
ì e ÷
The product of ì
D
and e
e
is essentially equal to the electron velocity.
If the frequency is less than e
e
the dielectric constant is high and the plasma appears
opaque to such radiation.
On the other hand the plasma becomes transparent to radiation at frequencies greater
than e
e
where the dielectric constant drops.
, 10 9 , 10
8 3 10
Hz cm n For
e e
× = =
÷
e
a frequency much larger than that typically used in
AC (RF) plasmas.
Plasma Criteria
1. System dimension >> Debye length
• D >> ì
D
• Only in this way the quasineutrality of the bulk of the plasma be ensured.
2. Shielding electrons drawn into the Debye sphere >> 1 (at least)
• N
D
= 4tì
D
3
n
e
/3
3. Electrons should interact more strongly with each other than with the
neutral gas.
• Under this conditions, particle motion in the plasma will be controlled by
electromagnetic forces rather than by gas fluid dynamics.
eV T k
cm n n
B
e i
2
10
3 10
=
= =
÷
cm
D
2
10 1
÷
× = ì ÷
2
q n
T k
i
B o
D
c
ì =
4
3
10 4 ~
3
4
× =
e D
D
n
N

AC Effects in Plasmas
t q
dt
x d
m
o e
e sin
2
2
E ÷ =
2
e
e
o
o
m
q
x
E
=
Maximum electron displacement amplitude
Assuming no collisions of electrons with neutrals,
2
2
2
) (
) (
2
1
e
e
o
o o o
m
q
x q E
E
E = · = Ionization energy
eV E
Ar o
7 . 15
) ( ,
=
) 10 56 . 13 2 ( 56 . 13
6
Hz MHz f × × = = t e
cm V
o
/ 5 . 11 = E
÷
Field Strength required to ionize gas.
E
o
= 11.5 V/cm is an easily attainable field in typical plasma reactors.
No power is absorbed in the collisionless harmonic motion of electrons, however.
For electrons undergo inelastic collisions,
Electron motion is randomized and power is effectively absorbed from the RF source.
Even smaller values of E
o
can produce ionization if, after electron-gas collisions, the
reversal in electron velocity coincides with the changing electric-field direction.
Through such effects RF discharges are more efficient than their DC counterparts in
promoting ionization.
Electrodeless Reactors
Inductive coupling
Capacitive coupling
However, for the deposition of films by RF sputtering, internal cathode targets are
required.
Electrode Sheaths
Cathode Sheath Anode Sheath
T k
V V q
n
n
B
f p
e
e
) (
exp
*
÷
÷ =
Electrode Sheaths
Both anode and cathode surfaces will be at a negative floating potential (V
f
) relative to
the plasma potential (V
p
)
Lower electron density in the sheath means less ionization and excitation of neutrals.
Less luminosity there.
Large electric fields are restricted to the sheath regions.
It is at the sheath-plasma interface that ions begin to accelerate on their way to the target
during sputtering.
The plasma is typically some ~ 15 volts positive with respect to the anode.
T k
V V q
n
n
B
f p
e
e
) (
exp
*
÷
÷ =
Electrode Sheaths
T k
V V q
n
n
B
f p
e
e
) (
exp
*
÷
÷ =
The number of electrons (n
e
*
) that can gain enough energy to surmount this barrier is
given by
Considering the electrical flux balance between electrons and ions near the cathode, it
gives
i
e
e
e
m
m
n
n 3 . 2
*
= (Derivation detail not given.)
eV g e
m
m
q
T k
V V
e
i e B
f p
10 ~ ., . )
3 . 2
ln(
2
= = ÷
¬
Ion Motion in Sheath
“Free fall”, collisionless manner
“Mobility limited”, repeated collision
2 / 3
2
2
9
4
V
m
q
d
E
j
s
o
· = Free fall or space charge limited
2
3
8
9
V
d
j
s
o
· =
E
Mobility limited
thickness sheath d
thickness sheath a across applied voltage V
s
:
:
It turn out that free fall model, also known as the Child-Langmuir equation, better
describes the measured cathode-current characteristics.
This is certainly true at low pressures where few collisions are likely.

Sheath Dark Space Thickness
The sheath dark space is sometimes visible with the unaided eye and is therefore
considerably larger than calculated Debye lengths of 100 µm.
This means that a large planar surface behaves differently from a point charge when both
are immersed in plasmas.
Instead of electrons shielding a point charge, bipolar diffusion of both electrons and ions
is required to shield an electrode, and this physically broadens the sheath dimensions.
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