Plasma and Surface Engineering

Common methods for the synthesis of functional thin films and coatings nowadays, e.g. magnetron sputtering or cathodic arc deposition, employ gas discharges or plasmas. The erosion of the typically metallic cathodes is achieved by ion bombardment with energetic ions extracted from the plasma (sputtering) or by evaporation due to strong localised heating in the so-called arc (or cathode) spot. Detached atoms or ions from the cathode surface will settle on substrates that are placed in the plasma stream. The addition of reactive gases to the discharge like oxygen, nitrogen or carbon allows for the synthesis of ceramic films with a broad compositional range.   

A sound understanding of the plasma properties, in particular the cathode-plasma interaction, is of vital importance to establish the optimal growth conditions for the thin films and coatings. Effects arising from the presence of several elements in the cathodes (intermixing) in conjunction with possible reactions with the background gas (cathode poisoning) need to be considered. 

The synthesised thin films and coatings are then analysed in detail with respect to their chemical composition, structure and properties in order to ensure the suitabibility for the desired application areas such as optical and hard coatings, transparent conductive thin films, thermochromic and electrochromic thin films, decorative coatings, photocatalytic films and others.

Current projects:

2019 - 2022: FFG Energieforschung (e!MISSION) "Refractory High Entropy Alloy Thin Films as Diffusion Barriers in Power Electronics"

Finalised projects:

2011-2014: Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship "Cathodic Arc Plasma of AlCr in reactive Atmospheres" (including 18 month visit to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA)

2015-2016: ERA-NET SIINN (FFG NANO-EHS) "The effect on human health of Ag/TiO2NM-treated leathers for footwear industry" with the project partners Leather and Footwear Research Institute, Romania, (coordinator) and Universidade do Minho, Portugal.  

2015-2017: FFG BRIDGE Early Stage "High-temperature mechanical wear resistance of hard coatings" with the project partners PLANSEE SE, Austria, and University of Southampton, UK.

2016-2019: FWF-FWO Joint Project "Sputter and arc deposition of new alloys (SPADONA)" in collaboration with Ghent University, Belgium

2015-2018: FWF Stand-alone Project "Vacuum arc plasma from NbAl cathodes" in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA.

2017-2020: FFG BRIDGE Early Stage "Erosion behaviour of composite AlCr arc cathodes ArcCathodeErosion)“ with the project partner PLANSEE SE, Austria.

Plasma-assisted vapour deposition of functional thin films

AlCr cathode erosion in cathodic arc plasma