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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
New ion gun
New ion gun
Keywords Coating, Ion gun, Los Alamos, Thin film
Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, have developed a new tool that can clean surfaces or deposit thin films of many different materials onto surfaces. The production of high-quality coatings at faster deposition rates could reduce costs and help prevent corrosion.
By cleaning surfaces just before deposition, the flow-through ion gun can produce thin films with superior adhesion. It can also deposit thin films two to ten times faster than other methods. In addition, thin films produced by the new gun are up to ten times smoother than those produced with other guns. To date, it has deposited thin films of magnesium oxide, indium tin oxide, titanium nitride, and yttria-stabilized zirconium.
Los Alamos' flow-through ion gun has been used to deposit wear-resistant, heat-resistant, and low-friction coatings on mechanical parts as well as improve the conductivity of electrical parts. The gun is expected to find applications in coatings for car and aerospace parts as well as in cleaning and coating processes employed in semiconductor fabrication.
The gun, which emits a beam of ions, is based in part on the Kaufman ion gun, a tool widely used in research laboratories. The Kaufman gun produces ions by stripping electrons from gas atoms entering the gun chamber through a gas feed.
Engineers at Los Alamos opened the back of a Kaufman gun to allow atoms evaporated from liquids or solids with an electron beam (a plasma) to enter it from the rear. At the rear, metal grids held at high voltages contain the plasma and give the ion beam a single acceleration directions. (In the Kaufman gun, charged metal grids are used to focus the ion beam.) Once inside the gun, the evaporated atoms are ionized and accelerated toward the work surface along with the feed gas atoms. Electron-beam evaporation permits coating with a wide variety of very pure materials.