Link between plasma properties with morphological, structural and mechanical properties of thin Ti films deposited by high power impulse magnetron sputtering
The main focus of this work is to correlate the basic plasma properties with morphological, structural and mechanical properties of thin films to bridge the gap between the energy source, the plasma and materials. For this purpose, the deposition and growth of thin titanium films deposited by high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) at various discharge power densities, from 0.17 kW/cm² to 3.5 kW/cm² were studied, both experimentally and by kinetic Monte Carlo simulation. Simulations of film growth were performed with a three-dimensional kinetic Monte Carlo code (NASCAM) with ion fraction and species energy determined experimentally by mass spectroscopy. Our approach, which is not purely empirically driven, intends to reveal some insights of the mechanisms underlying the synthesis process, which determine the intrinsic material properties. In order to link HiPIMS plasma parameters and Ti film properties, we used different techniques to analyse Ti films. TEM, X-ray diffraction and AFM were used to evaluate the structural and morphological properties of the films, and nano indention was used to evaluate their mechanical properties. We observed that the orientation of micro-crystals, which constitute the films, changes when the discharge power density increases. At the same time, we show that the films nano hardness changes non-monotonically with the increase of the discharge power density; it decreases first, then increases. The surface roughness behaviour is also non-monotonic; first increasing, then decreasing with the further increase of the discharge power density. 3D modelling helped to reveal that these non-monotonic evolutions are due to a transition between thermally-driven to ballistically-driven Ti atom mobility.