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Electron beam physical vapor deposition

Electron Beam Physical Vapor Deposition or EBPVD is a form of physical vapor deposition in which a target anode is bombarded with an electron beam given off by a charged tungsten filament under high vacuum. The electron beam causes atoms from the target to transform into the gaseous phase. These atoms then precipitate into solid form, coating everything in the vacuum chamber with a thin layer of the anode material.

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Thin film deposition is a process applied in the semiconductor industry to grow electronic materials, and in the aerospace industry to form thermal and chemical barrier coatings to protect surfaces against corrosive environments and to modify surfaces to have the desired properties.The deposition process can be broadly classified into physical vapor deposition (PVD) and chemical vapor deposition (CVD). In CVD, the film growth takes place at high temperatures, leading to the formation of corrosive gaseous products, and it may leave impurities in the film. The PVD process can be carried out at lower deposition temperatures and without corrosive products, but deposition rates are lower and it leaves residual compressive stress in the film. Electron beam physical vapor deposition, however, yields a high deposition rate from 0.1 μm / min to 100 μm / min at relatively low substrate temperatures, with very high material utilization efficiency. The schematic of an EBPVD system is shown in Fig 1.


Thin film deposition process

In an EBPVD system, the deposition chamber is evacuated to a pressure of 10-4 Torr. The material to be evaporated is in the form of ingots. There are as many as six electron guns, each having a power from few tens to hundreds of kW. Electron beams can be generated by thermionic emission, field emission or the anodic arc method. The generated electron beam is accelerated to a high kinetic energy and focused towards the ingot. When the accelerating voltage is between 20 kV – 25 kV and the beam current is a few amperes, 85% of the kinetic energy of the electrons is converted into thermal energy as the beam bombards the surface of the ingot. The surface temperature of the ingot increases resulting in the formation of a liquid melt. Although some of incident electron energy is lost in the excitation of X-rays and secondary emission, the liquid ingot material evaporates under vacuum.

The ingot itself is enclosed in a copper crucible, which is cooled by water circulation. The level of molten liquid pool on the surface of the ingot is kept constant by vertical displacement of the ingot. The number of ingot feeders depends upon the material to be deposited. The evaporation rate may be of the order of 10-2 g/cm2 sec.

Material evaporation methods

Refractory carbides like titanium carbide and borides like titanium boride and zirconium boride can evaporate without undergoing decomposition in the vapor phase. These compounds are deposited by direct evaporation. In this process these compounds, compacted in the form of an ingot, are evaporated in vacuum by the focused high energy electron beam and the vapors are directly condensed over the substrate.

Certain refractory oxides and carbides undergo fragmentation during their evaporation by the electron beam, resulting in a stoichiometry that is different from the initial material. For example, alumina, when evaporated by electron beam, dissociates into aluminum, AlO3 and Al2O. Some refractory carbides like silicon carbide and tungsten carbide decompose upon heating and the dissociated elements have different volatilities. These compounds can be deposited on the substrate either by reactive evaporation or by co-evaporation. In the reactive evaporation process, the metal is evaporated from the ingot by the electron beam. The vapors are carried by the reactive gas, which is oxygen in case of metal oxides or acetylene in case of metal carbides. When the thermodynamic conditions are met, the vapors react with the gas in the vicinity of the substrate to form films. Metal carbide films can also be deposited by co-evaporation. In this process, two ingots are used, one for metal and the other for carbon. Each ingot is heated with a different beam energy so that their evaporation rate can be controlled. As the vapors arrive at the surface, they chemically combine under proper thermodynamic conditions to form a metal carbide film.

The substrate

The substrate on which the film deposition takes place is ultrasonically cleaned and fastened to the substrate holder. The substrate holder is attached to the manipulator shaft. The manipulator shaft moves translationally to adjust the distance between the ingot source and the substrate. The shaft also rotates the substrate at a particular speed so that the film is uniformly deposited on the substrate. A negative bias D.C. voltage of 200 V – 400 V is applied to the substrate Focused high energy electrons from one of the electron guns preheat the substrate.

Ion beam assisted deposition

EBPVD systems are equipped with ion sources. These ion sources are used for substrate etching and cleaning, sputtering the target and controlling the microstructure of the substrate. The ion beams bombard the surface and alter the microstructure of the film. When the deposition reaction takes place on the hot substrate surface, the films develop an internal tensile stress due to the mismatch in the coefficient of thermal expansion between the substrate and the film. High energy ions can be used to bombard these ceramic thermal barrier coatings and change the tensile stress into compressive stress. Ion bombardment also increases the density of the film, changes the grain size and modifies amorphous films to polycrystalline films. Low energy ions are used for the surfaces of semiconductor films.

Advantages of EBPVD

The deposition rate in this process can be as low as 1 nm per minute to as high as few micrometers per minute. The material utilization efficiency is high relative to other methods and the process offers structural and morphological control of films. Due to the very high deposition rate, this process has potential industrial application for wear resistant and thermal barrier coatings in aerospace industries, hard coatings for cutting and tool industries, and electronic and optical films for semiconductor industries.

Disadvantages of EBPVD

EBPVD is a line-of-sight of deposition process. The translational and rotational motion of the shaft helps for coating the outer surface of complex geometries, but this process cannot be used to coat the inner surface of complex geometries. Another potential problem is that filament degradation in the electron gun results in a non-uniform evaporation rate.


  1. D. Wolfe, Thesis (Ph.D), Thesis 2001dWolfe,DE, Synthesis and characterization of TiC, TiBCN,TiB2 /TiC and TiC/CrC multilayer coatings by reactive and ion beam assisted, electron beam-physical vapor deposition (EB-PVD) The Pennsylvania State University, 1996.
  2. Movchan, B. A. (2006). "Surface Engineering" 22 (1): 35-46.
  3. Wolfe, D.; J. Singh (2000). "Surface and Coatings Technology" 124: 142-153.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Electron_beam_physical_vapor_deposition". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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