On sheath energization and Ohmic heating in sputtering magnetrons

Chunqing Huo, Daniel Lundin, Michael A. Raadu, André Anders, Jon Tomas Gudmundsson, Nils Brenning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


In most models of sputtering magnetrons, the mechanism for energizing the electrons in the discharge is assumed to be sheath energization. In this process, secondary emitted electrons from the cathode surface are accelerated across the cathode sheath into the plasma, where they either ionize directly or transfer energy to the local lower energy electron population that subsequently ionizes the gas. In this work, we present new modeling results in support of an alternative electron energization mechanism. A model is experimentally constrained, by a fitting procedure, to match a set of experimental data taken over a large range in discharge powers in a high-power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) device. When the model is matched to real data in this way, one finding is that the discharge can run with high power and large gas rarefaction without involving the mechanism of secondary electron emission by twice-ionized sputtered metal. The reason for this is that direct Ohmic heating of the plasma electrons is found to dominate over sheath energization by typically an order of magnitude. This holds from low power densities, as typical for dc magnetrons, to so high powers that the discharge is close to self-sputtering, i.e. dominated by the ionized vapor of the sputtered gas. The location of Ohmic heating is identified as an extended presheath with a potential drop of typically 100-150 V. Such a feature, here indirectly derived from modeling, is in agreement with probe measurements of the potential profiles in other HiPIMS experiments, as well as in conventional dc magnetrons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number045005
JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


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