Plasma and Thin Film Analysis

We are interested to improve the understanding of the fundamentals of pulsed laser deposition (PLD), in particular with respect to the deposition of oxide thin films in order to gain a better control over the deposition process. To accomplish this goal, we make use of analytical techniques such as XRD, SIMS, RBS and ICP-Mass spectrometry, to investigate the crystalline structure as well as the stoichiometry of the thin films deposited under different conditions. Complementary to film structure and composition, we study in detail the PLD plasma properties based on in situ plasma analysis techniques such as mass spectrometry, emission spectrometry and plasma imaging. Combining both approaches, plasma deposition and film properties, we seek to achieve a quantitative monitoring and control of intended film properties during the ablation process.

Mass spectrometry

Combining quadrupole mass selector with kinetic energy selector

In order to investigate the mass and energy distribution of laser generated plasma species in detail, a quadrupole mass spectrometer with a kinetic energy analyzer is available (Hiden Analytical Inc.). This set up allows the direct measurement of the kinetic energy distributions of positive, negative and neutral plasma species up to 1 keV.
The mass spectroscopy setup enables a better understanding of the species composition (left figure) and their respective energy distribution in the plasma (right figure). Information about the detected positive, negative and neutral species in the laser induced plasma can also be obtained. However, for neutral species only a qualitative analysis is possible to to the unkonwn ionisation cross sections of the arriving species.

Target: La0.4Ca0.6MnO3
ArF excimer laser (λ=193nm, ν=5Hz), Φ=1.5J/cm2
Target to detector distance: 4cm
For more details, see Appl. Phys. Lett. 99, 191501 (2011)
Combining the mass spectrometer with a Multichannel Scaler system, the arrival time of plasma species with a defined mass and selected kinetic energies can be measured.
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Langmuir probe


A Langmuir probe is one of the most simple and direct approaches to monitor the laser induced plasma by measuring the ion current. It works by inserting a metal probe with variable bias voltage into the plasma. The time of arrival signal of the charged species in the plasma can be directly obtained at each bias voltage as shown in the left figure. This enables to estimate the speed of the plasma. Besides, through the relationship between the magnitude of applied bias voltage and detected current signal, the temperature of the electrons can be determined.
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Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS)



Combining the mass spectrometer with an Ion Gun (Hal IG20) and an Electron Flood Gun (PREVAC) enables to profile both the films depth and mapping of elements also from insulating samples. More details can be found in Appl. Phys. Lett. 97, 192107 (2010)
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Plasma Imaging and Spectroscopy


Complementary to mass spectroscopy, we investigate the excited species in the laser induced plasma by emission spectroscopy. The first photo shows the experimental imaging/spectroscopy set-up where an image of the laser induced plasma is projected onto the entrance slid of the monochrometer via the indicated optical beam path. Through the combination of different delay times, we can record a spatially and time resolved emission spectrum of the plasma (top right image). The second image shows a La0.6Ca0.4MnO3 spectrum recorded with the spectrometer set-up between 500 and 520nm. Bottom: excitation lines published in the NIST database for the same wavelenght range.
Experimental set-up to record the optical laser-induced emission spectra.
Spatially, time and frequency resolved spectra of La0.6Ca0.4MnO3 recorded between 500 and 520nm. The measured spectruma are compared to excitation lines published in the NIST database.
The plasma imaging set-up is shown in the left image. A high speed gated ICCD camera (Andor New i-star) is used to record the time evolution of the ablated material. The images are recorded for either all light admitted through a quartz window (200nm-1000nm) or for selected wavelengths using an Acousto-optic tunable filter (AOTF, 400-1000 nm). The Brimrose models VA210-0.55-1.0-H and VA210-0.40-0.65-H) has a wavelength resolution of 0.6-3 nm with a manufacturer certified resolution of 1.3 nm at 633 nm. An image of an experimental arrangement (cylindrical Ag target with a target-heater/MS distance of 4cm is shown (Fig. (a)), followed by an all light image of the expanding plasma with (b) and without (c) heater. Images by Yao Xiang and Alejandro Ojeda.
As an example of selected line imaging using an AOTF, the next images show the spatial distributions of Ag and Ar excited neutrals at the same time frame of 1.4µs. The AOTF selected optical excitation lines were 827.35 nm for Ag I and 811.53 nm for Ar I. For each image 100 accumulations were used to increase image resolution. The gradients are normalized to the maximum counts for each image. More details can be found in J. Appl. Phys. 120, 225301 (2016).

In addition to the frequency, time and space resolved spectroscopy, we do time, space and frequency resolved imaging. One example is shown in the following animation where the plasma expansion of silver was recorded between the initial impact of the laser beam on the target and 10µsec after with a time resolution of 500nsec for each frame. After approx. 2µsec a rebound of the impinging Ag species from the heater is observed. These rebounded species travel back even as far as the target.

This video clip shows the rebound of Ag at room temperature and 1x10-1 mbar Ar background pressure. The target-substrate distance is 4cm and the total recorded time approx. 60µsec. More details to the silver ablation and the rebound can be found in A. Ojeda et al, J. Appl. Phys. 120, 225301 (2016).
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