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Physical vapor deposition (PVD) is a technique used to deposit thin films one atom (or molecule) at a time onto various surfaces (e.g., onto semiconductor wafers). The coating source is physical (ie. solid or liquid) rather than chemical as in chemical vapor deposition. The term physical vapor deposition appears originally in the 1966 book “Vapor deposition” by CF Powell, JH Oxley and JM Blocher Jr but Michael Faraday was using PVD to deposit coatings as far back as 1838.

Variants of PVD include

* Cathodic Arc Deposition
* Evaporative deposition
* Electron Beam Physical Vapor Deposition
* Pulsed laser deposition
* Sputter deposition

PVD is used in the manufacture of items including semiconductor devices, aluminized PET film for balloons and snack bags, and coated cutting tools for metalworking. Leading manufacturers of PVD tools include Applied Materials (~78.1% market share in 2004), Novellus Systems (~6.2% market share in 2004), and Oerlikon Balzers coatings[1] (~4.8% market share in 2004). Specialty and custom PVD equipment suppliers include Mustang Vacuum Systems[2], Platit, Sulzer Metplas (nee Metaplas Ionon)[3], Angstrom Engineering, Advanced Energy, Johnsen Ultravac[4], Plasma Quest Limited[5], tectra[6] and Denton Vacuum[7]. Besides PVD tools for fabrication special smaller tools mainly for scientific purposes have been developed. They mainly serve the purpose of extreme thin films like atomic layers and are used mostly for small substrates. A good example are mini e-beam evaporators which can deposit monolayers of virtually all materials with melting points up to 3.500°C.

Leading consumers of PVD tools for fabrication include Intel, Samsung, and Taiwan Semiconductor.

Some of the techniques used to measure the physical properties of PVD coatings are

* Calo tester – coating thickness test
* Scratch tester – coating adhesion test
* Pin on disc tester – wear and friction coefficient test

Sample Video of Plasma Vapor Deposition



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