Hydrogenation and surface density changes in hydrocarbon films during erosion using Ar/H2 plasmas

N. Fox-Lyon, G. S. Oehrlein, N. Ning, D. B. Graves

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20 Scopus citations


We report interactions of low pressure Ar, H2, and Ar/H 2 mixture plasmas with a-C:H films. Surface evolution and erosion of a-C:H films were examined for ion energies up to 200 eV by rf biasing the substrates. Film surfaces were characterized using in situ ellipsometry, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and atomic force microscopy. Multilayer models for steady-state modified surface layers are constructed using ellipsometric data and compared with results of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and transport of ions in matter (TRIM) calculations. We find that Ar plasma causes a modified layer at the surface that is depleted of H atoms. The depth and degree of this modification is strongly depending on Ar ion energies. This depletion saturates quickly during plasma exposure (1 s) and persists during steady-state erosion. We find that the thickness and density of the H-depleted layer are in good agreement with MD and TRIM simulations. The degree of surface densification decreases when small amounts of H2 are added to Ar plasmas. When more than 5 H2 is added to the plasma, long term loss in surface density is observed, indicating rehydrogenation and saturation of H in the film. As the H2 fraction increases, the near-surface atomic H increases and the ion composition bombarding the surface changes. This causes incorporation of H deeper into the a-C:H film. For a-C:H films exposed to pure H2 plasmas, H is introduced into the near-surface region to a depth of up to ∼8 nm from the surface. As the rf bias is increased the ion energy transitions from solely chemical sputtering to one involving physical sputtering, causing the yield of C atoms from the surface to greatly increase. The increasing yield suppresses H incorporation/saturation and decreases the magnitude of the modified surface layer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104314
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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