The Gamma tool, an advanced plasma vapour deposition (PVD) sputtering system, will be used by researchers in NIMP’s Laboratory of Ceramic Oxidic Materials. Among the applications being researched by the laboratory are piezoelectric and pyroelectric thin films, temperature sensors and photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells to support hydrogen production by means of water splitting.
The latter application is said to be a promising technique to accelerate the development of a hydrogen economy. NIMP is exploring a number of ideas related to the manufacture of electrodes for PEC cells that can split water with high efficiency, yet be manufactured from low-cost materials and offer the durability required for consumer applications.
Among the key specifications for NIMP is the Gamma tool’s very high vacuum capability of 5 x 10-9 Torr, which is as much as two orders of magnitude higher than some other commercially available sputtering systems, as this provides an environment to aid uniform film deposition. This is supported by an optical heating facility to pre-treat substrates by driving off moisture.
Surrey NanoSystems is fitting the tool with a brand new reactive gas-control system. Instead of a conventional DC-pulse-controlled process, the Gamma tool will use optical emission spectroscopy to control a high performance gas injection system, providing NIMP researchers with additional fine control over the characteristics and quality of film deposition.
Features included to support flexibility of application include the ability to configure the system to support up to four sputtering target materials. This makes it possible to deposit a range of thin films including metallic films (platinum, titanium and aluminium), ceramic oxides (PZT, BaTiO3), oxide films (TiO2, Al2O3, Fe2O3), as well as seeding layers to obtain highly textured surfaces.
The Gamma tool is also able to deposit films at high temperatures (up to 800oC) and anneal materials without breaking the vacuum.