Thin Films: a Basic Overview

What are thin films and thin film materials? According to the book Thin Film Materials Technology: Sputtering of Compound Materials by Kiyotaka Wasa, Makoto Kitabatake, and Hideaki Adachi, thin films are developed when individual atoms come in contact with a substrate. A thin film, then, can refer to a low-dimensional material that resulted from condensing the atomic, molecular or even the ionic species of an object. As for thickness, you can expect thin films to measure less than several microns combined.

Difference with Thick Films
A thick film, on the other hand, refers to a low dimensional material which developed as a result of assembling large aggregates or gains or clusters of atomic, molecular or ionic species.

A Little History
Thin film technology isn’t new though. It’s actually been used for more than half a century already, in various applications involved the manufacture of electronic devices and optical coatings. It’s also been particularly useful for Instrument hard coatings as well as decorative parts. Renewed interest in the technology, though, can be attributed to the fact that thin film technology is key to further developing new materials. These new materials are nanometer materials as well as superlattices which are man-made.

Benefits of Thin Films
Thin film materials along with thin film devices are often used to minimize or reduce the toxicity of toxic materials. That’s largely because the amount used is typically limited to the surface or think film layer. Processing of thin films is also considered to be energy-efficient so high energy consumption isn’t an issue. In addition, thin films are also regarded safe for the environment, with no ill side effects for the atmosphere. The book say that’s likely to continue well into the next century, which is excellent news for us since that means manufacturing companies can use the technology without adverse effects on the planet’s environment and resources.

Thin Film Materials
Thermal evaporation as well as chemical decomposition often results to thin film deposits on a substrate. The evaporation of sources materials due to the irradiation of energetic photons leads to the same thing as well.
1. Birth of thin film. The process starts off with random nucleation. This is then followed by nucleation as well as growth.
2. There are 3 things nucleation and growth stages depend on: substrate chemistry, along with growth temperature and growth rate.
3. Electron or ion bombardment can modify the nucleation state to a significant degree.
4. The deposition conditions present at the nucleation stage affect film microstructure as well as film stress.

For more information on thin film materials and products for commercial use, visit ACI Alloys.

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