Thin-Film Technology

Thin film technology is the process of depositing and characterizing functional material layers on a substrate.

These layers are the building blocks of modern devices, like computer and cell phone microchips, which require sophisticated know-how and systematic innovation to meet the ever-changing demands of high technology. Although there is the difference between the thin film and those used within photonic technology, for example, you can visit somewhere like Edmund Optics and see the difference when it comes to the different types of technology. KDF has the talents and tools to deposit and characterize, with high precision, various films ranging in thickness from a few angstroms to hundreds of microns. In addition to its state-of-the-art deposition and etch equipment, KDF possesses a variety of in-house metrology tools, and has access to a vast array of test and characterization facilities through its collaboration with research and academic institutions. The R&D team at KDF has a diversified experience in all areas of thin film engineering, devices, process development and characterization, and process integration. KDF research activities are mostly customer oriented and strongly focused on efficient and competitive technologies to enable production-worthy processes.

For further information on R&D projects, please contact Dr. Ammar Derraa, Director of Technology at, at (201) 784 5005 ext. 632.

Dielectric Deposition at High-Metallic Rates

High rate processes for deposition of dielectric films have been developed using DC reactive sputtering on scanning batch tools. A typical high rate process for the deposition of silicon dioxide films from a conductively doped silicon target would allow the formation of nearly one micron of SiO2 in fifteen minutes, as compared with nearly five hours when RF magnetron sputtered from a quartz target.

(Ref: Photonics Spectra, pp. 30-31, November 2002).

ITO – A New Approach

A new ionized PVD, Negative Sputter Ion Beam technology was developed at KDF for the deposition of super-smooth indium-tin oxide (ITO) thin films with highly transparent and conductive properties at near-room temperature deposition. A limited amount of cesium vapor injected onto a conventional sputtering target surface lowers the work function of the target and produces a negatively charged sputter ion beam. The negative sputter ion beam carriers the kinetic energy defined by the potential difference between the cathode and substrate.

(Ref: Proceedings of the American Vacuum Society Conference, Denver, CO, November 4-8, 2002).
Related Article:
Super-smooth indium-tin oxide thin films by negative sputter ion beam technology

Aluminum Nitride

In recent years, Aluminum Nitride (AlN) has generated a lot research interest because of its attractive properties for microelectronic and optoelectronic applications. AlN film can be grown by PVD or CVD techniques. CVD can produce highly oriented epitaxial AlN film, but suffers from a slow deposition rate and thermal stress due to substrate heating. Reactive sputtering produces a film of differing quality in term of microcrystalline properties, but has a high deposition rate and allows for processing at low substrate temperatures. KDF sputtering systems are capable of growing production-worthy AlN films.

Combined Linear Scanning, Velocity Profiling and Planetary Rotating Motion

Exceptionally high uniformities and tight repeatabilities have been achieved for dielectric films on KDF 900 series sputtering tools using a proprietary ERPP (enhanced rotating planetary pallet) in conjunction with the tool’s standard linear scanning mode.

(Ref: Vacuum Technology and Coating, December 2002).
Related Article:
Highly uniform dielectric films using a combined linear scanning, velocity profiling and planetary rotating motion

Linearly Moving Magnetron (LMM)

With the LMM technology, the plasma is swept across the target to achieve a uniform full-face target erosion and high target utilization. Figures 1 and 2 show the target erosion profiles for a stationary, and a LMM cathode. The LMM cathode is by design a superior technology in terms of process stability and repeatability from run-to-run and over the target life-time. This, in turn, translates to higher productivity and cost savings for the customer.

Transparent Conducting Oxides (TCO)

In additions to ITO, KDF is developing a family of TCOs such as Al-doped ZnO, for applications requiring transparent conductors.

Dry Etch-Band Magnetron Cathode (BMC)

This is a magnetron enhanced reactive ion etcher, which operates at very low pressure (typically 1-15 mTorr) and provides uniform anisotropic etching with minimal radiation damage.