Reactive magnetron sputtering (RMS) is a versatile technique for the production of alloy thin film coatings such as hydrides, nitrides, oxides, etc. RMS provides control over (i) film stoichiometry, via the partial pressure of “reactive” gas (H2, N2, etc.) injected, and (ii) film microstructure, via the bombardment of the growing surface by fast neutral or accelerated ionic species. However, few details are known about the fluxes reaching the film surface, and their reactions with it.
This paper reports comprehensive measurements for the RMS growth of hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H). The analysis techniques are in situ double modulation mass spectroscopy, plasma probes, isotope replacement experiments, and Monte-Carlo simulations of sputtered particle transport. We determine (i) the composition, energy and angular distributions of the incident flux, (ii) the H coverage of the growing surface, and (iii) the release of H2 from the growing film. For conditions which produce electronic quality a-Si:H, the total H flux arriving at the substrate varies between 0.5–2 times the depositing Si flux; about half of the H flux reflects. The growth surface has excess H varying between 0.5–2 × 1015/cm2, and this surface H coverage is linearly related to the bulk H incorporation. We also find evidence that film density varies with the energy of the arriving sputtered Si atoms.