An ionization region model for high-power impulse magnetron sputtering discharges

M. A. Raadu*, I. Axnäs, J. T. Gudmundsson, C. Huo, N. Brenning

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


A time-dependent plasma discharge model has been developed for the ionization region in a high-power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) discharge. It provides a flexible modeling tool to explore, e.g., the temporal variations of the ionized fractions of the working gas and the sputtered vapor, the electron density and temperature, and the gas rarefaction and refill processes. A separation is made between aspects that can be followed with a certain precision, based on known data, such as excitation rates, sputtering and secondary emission yield, and aspects that need to be treated as uncertain and defined by assumptions. The input parameters in the model can be changed to fit different specific applications. Examples of such changes are the gas and target material, the electric pulse forms of current and voltage, and the device geometry. A basic version, ionization region model I, using a thermal electron population, singly charged ions, and ion losses by isotropic diffusion is described here. It is fitted to the experimental data from a HiPIMS discharge in argon operated with 100 νs long pulses and a 15 cm diameter aluminum target. Already this basic version gives a close fit to the experimentally observed current waveform, and values of electron density ne, the electron temperature Te, the degree of gas rarefaction, and the degree of ionization of the sputtered metal that are consistent with experimental data. We take some selected examples to illustrate how the model can be used to throw light on the internal workings of these discharges: the effect of varying power efficiency, the gas rarefaction and refill during a HiPIMS pulse, and the mechanisms determining the electron temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number065007
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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