Effect of pulsed magnetron sputtering process for the deposition of thin layers of nickel and nickel oxide

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Magnetron sputtered nickel and nickel oxide films have been studied for various applications. We may find, among others, these films in electrochromic display devices, in resistive type gas sensors, as metal electrodes in electronic devices, in solar thermal absorbers. Pure nickel films deposited using PVD technique possess good corrosion and wear resistant properties. Magnetron sputtering has several advantages in film deposition (in comparison to other methods) such as relatively low heating temperature of the deposited substrate during sputtering process, high energy of sputtered atoms (about 10 eV) at the substrate, which influences positively the films adhesion. From application point of view, the most valuable feature of these films is the possibility of scaling target dimensions, which makes feasible the deposition on a several square meter surfaces. The improvement of magnetron sputtering devices design may influence positively the optimization of the deposition technology and its efficiency. The thin nickel and nickel oxide films were prepared by pulsed magnetron sputtering using original type WMK magnetron device. Ni (99.9 %) has been used as a sputtering target of 100 mm in diameter and different thicknesses (3 mm, 5 mm, and 6 mm). The distance between the substrate and target was the same in all experiments and equal to 120 mm. Argon and oxygen gases were introduced during the reactive process through needle gas valves at a total pressure of 0.4 Pa. The sputtering power, sputtering pressure and oxygen partial pressure have been used as technological knobs for deposition processes. The helpful tool for controlling the pulsed magnetron sputtering process was the original parameter of supply (so called circulating power). Results from our experiments showed that the deposition of Ni films is possible even from targets of 6 mm thickness. Deposition rate increased proportionally with the sputtering power. The aim of this work is to use the acquired expertise to develop an efficient technology of thin nickel oxide layers for electrochromic systems.

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