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Thin Films : an introduction


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Other application notes
Thin Films - what are they?
thin films - what are they? Thin Films are very thin layers of materials used to manipulate various surface properties
  • optical thin films (Filters, Anti-reflection, Cosmetic, security devices, architectural)
  • surface chemical modification(hydrophobic, bio & chemical sensors)
  • barrier coatings (packaging films, ultra-barriers)
  • electrical coatings (anti-static, shielding, displays)
  • hard and wear resistant coatings (cutting tools, bearings, engine parts, plastic optics)
  • decorative coatings (watch cases, bathroom furniture, door furniture, plastic mouldings, metallic yarns)
These films are solid and typically either metallic or compounds. Polymer thin films are also for applications such as barriers, hydrophobic treatments and surface functionalization for biological, medical or chemical applications.
Thin films can be made by a a variety of techniques.
  • Sputtering
  • Evaporation
  • Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD)
These each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Comparison of thin film deposition methods
Technique Advantages Disadvantages
Sputtering
  • Dense films
  • Good uniformity
  • Wide range of inorganic materials
  • relatively slow
Thermal Evaporation
  • Fast
  • Relatively simple
  • Limited range of materials
  • Low density films without ion or plasma assist
e-Beam Evaporation
  • Fast
  • Wide range of inorganic materials
  • high voltages
CVD
  • Gives good control of coating chemistry
  • Difficult to scale
  • Often uses hazardous liquids or gases