The Role of Sputtering Targets in Vacuum Sputtering

Introduction to Vacuum Sputtering

Vacuum sputtering is a thin-film technology to deposit thin films and coatings by creating a sub-atmospheric pressure environment and an atomic or molecular condensable vapor source. The basic principle is to make argon (Ar) ions hit the surface of the sputtering target through glow discharge in a vacuum, so that the target atoms overflow and deposit on the substrate to form a thin film.

Most general metal materials use DC sputtering, while non-conductive ceramic materials use RF sputtering. The new sputtering coating equipment uses powerful magnets to accelerate the ionization of argon gas around the target material in a spiral shape, thereby increasing the probability of collision between the target material and argon ions, thereby increasing the sputtering rate.

Characteristics of Sputtering Coating Process

(1) It has a wide range of applications, and can make metal, alloy or insulator materials into thin films.

(2) Under proper setting conditions, multi-component targets can be made into thin films with the same composition.

(3) A mixture or compound of the target substance and gas molecules can be produced by adding oxygen or another reactive gas to the discharge atmosphere.

(4) The target input current and sputtering time are controllable, which is conducive to obtaining high-precision film thickness.

(5) Sputtering coating is more conducive to producing large-area uniform films than other processes.

(6) The sputtered particles are not affected by gravity, and the positions of the target and the substrate can be freely arranged.

(7) The bonding strength between the substrate and the film is more than 10 times that of the general evaporated film, and because the sputtering particles have high energy, the surface of the film is continuously diffused to obtain a hard and dense film. At the same time, high energy allows the substrate to obtain a crystalline film at a lower temperature.

(8) The nucleation density is high at the initial stage of film formation, and an extremely thin continuous film of 10 nm or less can be produced.

(9) The target has a long service life and can be continuously produced for a long time.

(10) The target can be made into various shapes, and with the special design of the machine, it can be controlled better and has the highest efficiency.

How Target Purity Affects Thin Film Quality

Many factors can affect the quality of a thin film, of which the purity of the sputtering target has the greatest impact. If the target material is not pure enough, the impurity particles in the target material will adhere to the surface of the substrate during the sputtering process, causing the film layer in some positions to be weak and peel off. Simply put, the higher the purity of the target material, the better the performance of the film.

For targets with poor thermal conductivity, such as silicon aluminum sputtering targets, the heat transfer is often hindered by impurities in the target. There is a difference between the cooling water temperature used in production and the actual water temperature of the coating line, which leads to cracking of the target during use. Generally speaking, slight cracks will not have a great impact on coating production. However, when the target has obvious cracks, the charge is easily concentrated on the edge of the crack, resulting in abnormal discharge on the surface of the target. Discharging will lead to slag falling, abnormal film formation, and increased product scrapping. Therefore, in the process of target preparation and purity control, it is also necessary to control the preparation process conditions.

Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) is a global sputtering targets manufacturer which supplies high-quality and consistent products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit for more information.


Impact of Thin Film Technology on The Crystalline Silicon Industry

Judging from the current development of photovoltaic technology, thin films, especially CIGS thin films, will gradually become the mainstream of solar power generation.

Thin-Film Solar Cell

Thin-film photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells, are devices that use the photovoltaic effect to convert light energy into electrical energy. They are considered novel photovoltaic devices that can alleviate the energy crisis.

Thin-film solar cells can be fabricated on substrates using materials such as ceramics, graphite, and metal sheets. These raw materials, while relatively cheap, work very well. They can make thin films with a thickness of only a few micrometers, and the current conversion efficiency can reach 13%.

In addition to planar, thin-film solar cells can also be made into non-planar structures because of their flexibility. Therefore, they have a wide range of applications and can be combined with or become part of buildings.


The aforementioned CIGS is mainly composed of Cu (copper), In (indium), Ga (gallium), and Se (selenium), and the complete chemical formula is CuInxGa(1-x)Se2. This material has many advantages, including strong light absorption ability, good power generation stability, high conversion rate, long daytime power generation time, low production cost, short energy recovery cycle, etc.

Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cells
Ogunshile, Emmanuel. (2017). An Investigation into the Use of Hybrid Solar Power and Cloud Service Solutions for 24/7 Computing. 743-754. 10.5220/0006380007430754.

CIGS VS. Silicon

Why thin film technology will beat traditional crystalline silicon products? Comparing the two, you will find the following results.

  • The absolute power generation of the thin film is higher, and the average power generation is about 8-10% higher than that of crystalline silicon (depending on the location and climate of the power station).
  • The decay rate of CIGS thin film power generation is controllable, which means that the occurrence of power generation decay can be controlled by adopting effective technical means. The practice has proved that during the operation of the CIGS thin-film station, the power generation does not decrease, but increases slightly.

For the comparison between CIGS thin film and Silicon materials, you can refer to this article Silicon Thin-Film VS. CIGS Thin-Film for Solar Panels.


Although the crystalline silicon industry has matured and the conversion efficiency of monocrystalline silicon has also been improved, technical shortcomings restrict the sustainable development of the crystalline silicon industry. What’s worse is that its industrial chain is long, the cost is difficult to control, and crystalline silicon products are not competitive. From this point of view, the development of thin film technology, especially CIGS thin film, will get better and better.

Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) is a global sputtering target manufacturer which supplies high-quality and consistent products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. We provide high-purity CIGS materials and we insure you will be satisfied with our products. Please visit our website for more information.


6 Facts About Semiconductor Wafers

1. Semiconductor, as it literally seems to be, is a solid substance whose conductivity is between insulators and most metals, either due to the addition of an impurity or because of temperature effects. In other words, the conductivity of the semiconductor can be controlled by adding impurities as a specific amount of other materials to the semiconductor.

2. Most semiconductor wafers are made of silicon, which is the second-most abundant element in the Earth’s crust (about 28% by mass) after oxygen and the eighth-most common element in the entire universe by mass. In addition to silicon, semiconductors also use other materials, including germanium, gallium arsenide, germanium, indium phosphide, sapphire and quartz.

3. Semiconductor wafers are available in a spread of diameters. The first semiconductor wafer made in the US in 1960 was just 1 inch in diameter. Today, standard semiconductor wafers go up from 12 inches to 18 inches.

4. Water is the key component of manufacturing Silicon wafers. It is a compound that basically is a general solvent for all substances, silicon included. A large production facility uses up to 4.8 million gallons of water every day to supply Silicon wafers for manufacturing needs and supply.

5. The thickness of semiconductor wafers varies greatly. The thickness of the wafer is always determined by the mechanical strength of any material used to make it. Regardless of what the semiconductor is made of, the wafer must be thick enough to support its own weight so that it does not break during processing.

6. Contamination is inevitable during the manufacture and transportation of semiconductors. Appropriate storage conditions must be in place to prevent contamination and/or degradation after shipment. Semiconductor wafers that are not vacuum sealed must be placed in a Nitrogen (N2) cabinet at a flow rate of 2 to 6 SCFH (Standard Cubic Feet per Hour).

Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) is a global sputtering targets manufacturer which supplies high-quality and consistent products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit for more information.

Application of Molybdenum Target in Mobile Phone LCD Screen

Nowadays, society is full of phubbers, and mobile phones have become the most indispensable thing for the masses. Mobile phone displays are also becoming more and more high-end, such as full-screen design, small bang design, and so on.

Do you know what the important step is in making a mobile phone LCD screen? — Coating, using magnetron sputtering to sputter metal molybdenum from the molybdenum target onto the liquid crystal glass.

As an advanced film material preparation technology, sputtering has two characteristics of “high speed” and “low temperature”. It concentrates ions into a high-speed ion stream in a vacuum to bombard a solid surface. The kinetic energy exchange between the ions and the atoms on the solid surface causes the atoms on the solid surface to leave the target and deposit on the surface of the substrate to form a nano (or micro) film. The bombarded solid is a material for depositing a thin film by sputtering, which is called a sputtering target.

In the electronics industry, molybdenum sputtering targets are mainly used for flat panel displays, electrodes and wiring materials for thin film solar cells, and barrier materials for semiconductors. These are based on its high melting point, high electrical conductivity, low specific impedance, good corrosion resistance, and good environmental performance.

Molybdenum used in components of LCDs can greatly improve the brightness, contrast, color, and life of the LCD. One of the major applications for molybdenum sputtering targets in the flat panel display industry is in the TFT-LCD field.

molybdenum target

In addition to the flat panel display industry, with the development of the new energy industry, the application of molybdenum sputtering targets on thin film solar photovoltaic cells is also increasing. The molybdenum sputtering target mainly forms a CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) thin-film battery electrode layer by sputtering. Among them, molybdenum is at the bottom of the solar cell, and is a back contact of the solar cell. It plays an important role in the nucleation, growth, and morphology of the CIGS thin film crystal.

Stanford Advanced Materials(SAM) is a global sputtering targets manufacturer which supplies high-quality and consistent products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit for more information.

3 Minutes to Know PVD Gold Sputtering

Gold is a popular precious metal that has been used for centuries as currency, hedging and jewelry for its noble and beautiful gold color.

PVD Gold Sputtering

Gold sputtering coating is a thin film deposition process in which gold or gold alloy is bombarded with high-energy ions in a vacuum chamber, causing gold atoms or molecules to be “sputtered” into the vapor and condensed on the substrate to be coated. Sputtering is one method of the PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) process, the other two of which are thermal evaporation deposition and electron beam vapor deposition, and gold is also applied in these two methods. In thermal evaporation deposition, gold evaporates in a low-pressure environment with resistive heating elements; and in electron beam vapor deposition, gold is heated by an electron beam, and then condensed on the substrate to be coated.

Gold Plating

Apart from PVD coating, there are other ways for gold coatings such as gold plating and gold filling. Gold plating is a method that deposits a thin layer of gold on the surface of another metal by chemical or electrochemical plating. The advantages of gold plating are inexpensive and easy. However, the coating it produces is relatively soft and less durable, and what’s worse, its chemical process would cause pollution that is far away from environmentally friendly.

Gold Filling

Gold filling is the mechanical bonding of gold to metal under high temperatures and pressure. It produces a thicker coating than PVD gold sputtering and gold plating, and thus it is usually more expensive.

Advantages of PVD gold sputtering

The constant contact of skin or clothing may abrade the coatings, especially in the watch and jewelry industry. Thus, PVD gold sputtering is preferred in these two industries because the coatings it produces are harder and more durable than that of electrolytic gold plating or gold filling.

Compared to other types of gold coatings, the main advantages of PVD gold sputtering coating are their durability, retention of gloss, corrosion resistance, and abrasion resistance in contact with the skin, thus extending the life of the jewelry. PVD gold sputtering not only provides the exact color and brightness which evokes the general feeling of love and attraction with jewelry, but also has the advantage of being more environmentally friendly and durable than gold plating or gold filling for producing a gold coating.

Stanford Advanced Materials(SAM) is a global sputtering targets manufacturer which supplies high-quality and consistent products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs.

Pros & Cons of 4 Film Manufacturing Methods

The properties of the thin film are determined by the manufacturing method, and different methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. Commonly used preparation processes include magnetron sputtering, chemical vapor deposition, vacuum evaporation, pulsed laser deposition, etc. Among them, magnetron sputtering deposition technology has been widely researched and applied due to its high film formation rate and good uniformity.


Magnetron Sputtering

The basic principle of the method is that under the action of electric and magnetic fields, the accelerated high-energy particles (A, +) bombard the surface of the target, and after the energy is exchanged, the atoms on the surface of the target escape from the original lattice, and finally, the sputtering particles are deposited on the surface of the substrate and react with oxygen atoms to form an oxide film. The magnetron sputtering process is characterized by excellent optical and electrical properties of the film deposited at low temperatures. In addition, it has the advantages of a high deposition rate, low substrate temperature, good film adhesion, easy to control, and large-area film formation. Therefore, it has become the most researched and widely used film-forming technology in industrial production today as well as a research hotspot in ITO film preparation technology.

Chemical Vapor Deposition

The chemical vapor deposition method is a process in which a gaseous reactant (including a gaseous reactant that becomes a vaporized condensed matter after evaporation) is chemically reacted on the surface of the substrate to deposit a film. This chemical reaction occurring on the surface of the substrate is usually the thermal decomposition and in-situ oxidation of the source material. The reaction system selected by the CVD method must satisfy:

(1) At the deposition temperature, the reactant must have a sufficiently high vapor pressure;
(2) The chemical reaction product must be in a gaseous state except for the solid matter deposited on the substrate;
(3) The vapor pressure of the deposit should be low enough to ensure good adsorption on a substrate having a certain temperature.

Vacuum Evaporation

The vacuum evaporation method is a method in which a raw material of a to-be-formed film in an evaporation vessel is vaporized from a surface to form a vapor stream, and is incident on a surface of the substrate to react with a gas to form a film in a vacuum chamber. A high-quality ITO film can be prepared by the electron beam evaporation deposition method, in which the evaporation substance is In2Odoped with SnO2, and the mass percentage of SnO2 is 10%. Under suitable process conditions, the deposited film has a minimum resistivity of 4×10-4 Ω•cm and an average transmittance in the visible range of more than 90%.

Pulsed Laser Deposition

The pulsed laser deposition (PLD) process is a very competitive new vacuum physical deposition process developed in recent years. Compared with other processes, it has the advantages of precise control of stoichiometry, synthesis, and deposition, and no requirement for the shape and surface quality of the target, so the surface of the solid material can be processed without affecting the material body.

Stanford Advanced Materials(SAM) is a global sputtering targets manufacturer which supplies high-quality and consistent products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit for more information.

Selection of Common Coating Types of PVD Coating

Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) is a thin film preparation technique that physically vaporizes the surface of a material source (solid or liquid) into gaseous atoms, molecules, or partially ionized into ions under vacuum conditions. [1]

Achieving a cost-effective application of the coating depends on a number of factors, and for each particular processing application, there is typically only one or several possible coating options. The choice of coating and its characteristics correctly determines the difference between a significant increase in processability and little improvement. Therefore, it is necessary to select a suitable coating according to detailed parameters such as the processing speed, the cooling method, the material to be processed, and the processing method. The following is our recommended coating selection:


TiN is a versatile coating that increases tool hardness and has a higher oxidation temperature.

Uses: high-speed steel cutting tools, slow processing tools (such as low-speed turning tools), wear parts, injection molds.


The TiCN coating is based on the addition of carbon to the TiN to increase the hardness and low coefficient of friction of the coating.

Uses: high-speed steel tools, stamping dies, forming dies

TiAlN, AlTiN

The alumina coating formed by the TiAlN/AlTiN coating during processing can effectively improve the high-temperature processing life of the processing tool. The high-temperature oxidation resistance of the AlTiN coating is about 100 degrees higher than that of TiAlN.

Uses: Carbide tools (TiAlN is recommended when the hardness of the processed material is lower than HRC45 and AlTiN is recommended when the hardness of the processed material is higher than HRC45), thin-walled stamping die (TiAlN), die-casting die (AlTiN)


CrN coating has good adhesion, corrosion resistance, and wear-resistance.

Uses: processing aluminum alloy, red copper cutter, injection mold, parts (especially with lubricating oil soaking)


The PLATIT CBC coating is composed of a TIN+TICN+DLC structure. It has the advantages of low friction coefficient, wear-resistance, and low stress of the film layer.

Uses: Lubricating coatings, forming dies, aluminum alloys, and other bonding materials stamping dies.

Apart from features and uses, different coating materials also show different colors. If you require the specific color of your coating, you can refer to the sheet below to choose your desirable coating materials.

PVD Coating Colors

Stanford Advanced Materials(SAM) supplies high-quality and consistent products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. All the types we talked about above can be found in SAM. Please visit for more information.


[1] What is Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD)?

PVD Coating: Give Your Watch a Durable Coat

For most people who could not afford a pure gold watch, a gold coating may be a good choice for them. However, since it is a thin film coating, it is inevitable that the gold color would fade out. So the primary consideration in choosing the coating material/method is durability. If you want to give your watch a durable coat, you really should think about PVD coating.

What is PVD coating?

PVD coating, or Physical Vapor Deposition, refers to a variety of vacuum deposition techniques where solid metal is vaporized to produce thin films and coating. The main methods of physical vapor deposition include vacuum evaporationsputtering depositionarc plasma platingion plating, etc. PVD film has fast deposition speed as well as strong adhesion, good diffraction, and a wide application range.

Maybe you will find it not easy to understand it since PVD is a physical terminology. But actually, as a watch lover, you should just know that PVD coating can provide a metal coat to your watch, making it more beautiful and durable.

Why should you choose PVD coating?

PVD coating has high hardness, high wear resistance, low friction coefficient, good corrosion resistance, and chemical stability. So PVD coating would definitely have a longer lifetime than other traditional coatings. Apart from durability, PVD coating provides multiple kinds of metallic colors, such as gold(TiN), rose gold(TiAlN), silver(Cr2N), brass(ZrN), light grey(TiC), and so on. You will always find the one you like.

PVD Coating Colors

More tips

If you are going to give your watch a PVD coating after reading this blog, I’d like to help you save time in choosing the coating materials. Please consider Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM), which is a global supplier of various technical-grade coating materials as well as high-purity chemicals (up to 99.99999%). All of the coating materials we talked about above can be found on SAM’s website. We ensure that you can get your watch the most durable coat here.

What is Reactive Sputtering Coating Technology?

At present, reactive sputtering deposition is a well-established sputter coating technology and is widely used for industrial coating deposition to produce thin layers for high-added value products, such as flat panel displays, solar cells, optical components, and decorative finishes.


In the process of reactive sputtering, a target material is sputtered in the presence of a gas or a mixture of gasses that will react with the target material to prepare a compound film of a predetermined chemical ratio. Reactive sputtering is most often practiced using one or more magnetron sputtering cathodes. Therefore, it is also called reactive magnetron sputtering.

Sputtering Target

Sputtering targets can be divided into metal targets, alloy targets, ceramic targets, etc. Metal sputtering targets can be used to produce compound materials. For example, a titanium sputtering target can be used to produce coatings such as TiO2, TiN, and Ti-O-N. Apart from it, titanium targets can also be used to produce any of the aforementioned different compositions as well as boride and carbide films. Compared with the compound target, the metal target has the advantage of longer service life.

Reactive gases

In most cases, Argon is the main gas used in reactive sputtering as well as other sputter coating methods. It has to be mentioned that the amount of a reactive gas introduced into a process chamber should be strictly controlled in order to either achieve a certain amount of doping or to produce a fully reacted compound. Here is a list of other gasses used in reactive sputtering).

Gasses Uses
Oxygen (O2) deposition of oxide films (e.g. Al2O3, SiO2, TiO2, HfO2, ZrO2, Nb2O5, AZO, ITO)
Nitrogen (N2) deposition of nitride films (e.g. TiN, ZrN, CrN, AlN, Si3N4, AlCrN, TiAlN)
Carbon dioxide (CO2) deposition of oxide coatings
Acetylene (C2H2) deposition of metal-DLC, hydrogenated carbide, carbo-nitride films
Methane (CH4) similar applications as for C2H2

Several reactive gasses can be mixed in order to deposit a multi-component functional thin film. Additional reactive gas is sometimes used to enhance a certain deposition process (e.g. addition of N2 in the SiO2 reactive sputtering process).


Coatings and films produced by Reactive Magnetron Sputtering can be used in a large variety of products such as OLED devices, optical antireflective coatings, and decorative coatings.

 Please visit for information.

Determining Factors For Fillm Uniformity

Sputtering targets are materials that are indispensable during the sputtering process in the coating industry. Uniformity is an indicator used to value the quality of the coated film. Usually, there are two factors that determine the coating uniformity: the length of the targets and the distance between the target and the substrate.

factors that determine the coating uniformity

Length of the sputtering targets

The length of the target is an important factor in producing a coating with good uniformity, because it decides which construction method to be used. It’s better you consider the length of certain monolithic targets during the process requirements planning phase in order to achieve good uniformity.

Suitable target length depends on the orientation of the sputtering target materials and how much weight the target flanges can support without plastically deforming or breaking which can occur for brittle materials. For example, ceramic targets are usually brittle and usually need to be bonded with a backing tube, so the length of ceramic targets cannot be too long, otherwise, they will easily break into pieces. In addition, people usually joined small ceramic targets together to produce the large-area ceramic thin film in the case.

Distance between the target and Substrate

The other factor to define the achievable uniformity of the obtained film is the distance between the sputtering target and the substrate. The larger the distance is, the poorer the uniformity is achieved on the substrate. To be noted, the distance is not stable during the process: it keeps increasing as the target materials keep being consumed and eroding. Therefore, generally speaking, the density of the coating is not uniform, and the worst process uniformity occurs when the sputtering ends.

In general, the distance between the target and the substrate is measured before the start of sputtering, so that the uniformity we calculated is theoretically the best, or the most achievable. But in fact, at the end of the sputtering, the initial uniformity specification could not be reached due to the increase in the distance. The specific difference depends on the initial target thickness.