The Mask Aligner System (MAS) is an automated shutter system which can be installed in a Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) chamber and allows 2D arrays of thin film materials to be produced (combinatorial libraries) with locally defined composition and microstructure, based on the source materials being deposited.

The idea is to rapidly synthesize a large number of similar materials and then to select those with the most promising properties for further evaluation and scale-up. In materials science, not only the composition is important but also the crystal structure, residual stress, surface functionalization and meso-structure may play a role. It is therefore important to not only control composition, but also deposition temperature and post-deposition annealing parameters.

The MAS being attached to a multibeam sputtering system. A single flange is used for all necessary mechanical and electrical interfaces.

The MAS is designed to fit into most commercially available PVD chambers and can be adapted to non-standard designs. It consists of several moveable apertures, together with software to guide the Design Of Experiment (DOE) and the combinatorial manufacturing process.

Applications for thin film materials discovered or optimized by the use of combinatorial libraries include semi-conductor materials for electronics, transparent conducting oxides for opto- and organic-electronics (including displays, imaging sensors and general service lighting), novel magentic materials (for motors, data storage and sensors), catalysts (automobile industry and other chemical reactions), optimised hard-wearing low-friction coatings for watch-making and cutting tools and many other industrially significant application areas.

Example of typical MAS shutter configurations

The MAS can be used with a range of sample substrate materials and geometries, although it is designed for 4 inch wafers. The sample is mounted on a rotational stage and the shutter system consists of 4 shutters which are controlled by 4 displacement stages.

Binary composition spreads can be fabricated by rotating the substrate by 180° or the use of two opposing shutters. Ternary spreads are realized by rotating the substrate by 120°each time before the deposition of the next material. For coverage of the complete ternary system, the movement of the shutter can be stopped at an intermediate position, thus limiting the length of the wedge-type layer. By using a combination of such “limited” wedges, rotated by 120° relative to each other, the complete ternary and binary systems can be covered in one experiment on a single substrate.

Example of a ternary thin film combinatorial library covering the full compositional range (0-100%) for each element (Ref. 1)

Selected References

  1. Zarnetta, Combinatorial development and discovery of ternary and quaternary shape memory alloys, PhD Thesis, Fakultät Maschinenbau der Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, 2010
  2. Kaufmann, Shutter System, BSc Thesis, HE-ARC Le Locle, Switzerland, 2014


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