Deposition Of Dense And Hard Coatings By Ion-Assisted And Plasma-Assisted Vacuum Processes
Vacuum-deposited thin films have suffered because some of their properties are inferior to those of the respective bulk material. The growth process of these films is the fundamental reason for weaker properties, which include density and hardness. It causes a less-than-dense, columnar or dendritic microstructure, that is apt to change electrical, mechanical, and optical properties upon adsorption and desorption of environmental contaminants - predominantly water molecules from humid air. Through ion-assisted deposition (IAD), researchers have attempted to grow thin films with "bulk-like" microstructure and properties, many times utilizing the co-irradiation of the growing film with energetic ion beams. At the University of Central Florida, a major alternative R&D effort is in progress to study and apply reactive low voltage ion plating (RLVIP) techniques for thin film growth, employing a state-of-the-art, high-vacuum deposition system with extensive process diagnostics and thin film characterization.