Romania's National Institute of Materials Physics (NIMP) has ordered an advanced
sputtering tool from Surrey
NanoSystems, to support fundamental research into oxide materials including
piezoelectric and pyroelectric thin films, and photoelectrochemical cells to
support the hydrogen economy.
NIMP chose a configuration of Surrey NanoSystems' Gamma tool, an advanced
PVD (plasma vapour deposition) sputtering system. The technical decision
was made primarily because of the tool's very high quality of thin film
deposition and flexibility of application.
The tool 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 a promising technique to
accelerate the development of a hydrogen economy, and 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 exceptionally pure 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 additionally 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
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 very broad variety 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 800 degrees C - and anneal materials
without breaking the vacuum.
"The Gamma tool is highly configurable, and it allowed us to install all
key facilities we need to support our laboratory's work," says
Marius-Cristian Cioangher of NIMP. "Flexibility of set up and control is
another important aspect of the tool, and Gamma's graphical MIMIC-style
display makes it easy to create and refine application-specific processing