Evolution of Surface Micro-Features on Titanium Nitride Films Deposited Using Plasma Vacuum Arc Methods

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)22_Publication in policy or professional journal

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  • L. H. Li
  • P. K. Chu
  • S. C E Kwok
  • Y. Q. Wu
  • Y. H. Zhang


Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationIEEE International Conference on Plasma Science
Publication statusPublished - 2003


Title2003 IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science
PlaceKorea, Republic of
Period2 - 5 June 2003


Titanium nitride (TIN) thin films possess excellent wear resistance, a golden color, and other desirable properties. They are therefore quite common in industrial parts and components. TiN films can be fabricated by many methods among which vacuum arc plasma deposition is gaining popularity because of the ease to adjust the processing parameters and the high deposition rate. In order to retain the high efficiency in industrial applications, magnetic filters are not frequently used and macro-particles emitted from the source can contaminate the samples. The macro-particles can reduce the wear resistance and increase the surface roughness of the deposited film as these particles tend to have lower hardness and frequently become the original failure points. A long deposition time, high ion energy, high deposition rate, high deposition temperature, and high sample bias can result in a rougher surface as well. The surface roughness is due to the presence of surface microstructures that stand out from the surface. These microfeatures are usually considered the result of macro-particles on the thin film deposited using vacuum arc methods, or TiN crystalline growth on the macro-particles. In this work, we aim to distinguish the intrinsic nature of the abnormal features. TiN films are deposited respectively using arc deposition with direct vacuum arc plasma source and with filtered vacuum arc plasma source. The surface microstructures resembling buds and seeds are assessed by atomic force microscopy (AFM). Using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and diffraction, the nature of the columnar structures is investigated.