Silicon oxide barrier films deposited on PET foils in pulsed plasmas: influence of substrate bias on deposition process and film properties

Simon Steves, B Ozkaya, C-N Liu, O Ozcan, Nikita Bibinov, G Grundmeier, Peter Awakowicz

JOURNAL OF PHYSICS D-APPLIED PHYSICS, Volume: 46, Issue: 8, Article Number: 084013, DOI: 10.1088/0022-3727/46/8/084013, Published: FEB 27 2013


A widely used plastic for packaging, polyethylene terephtalate (PET) offers limited barrier properties against gas permeation. For many applications of PET (from food packaging to micro electronics) improved barrier properties are essential. A silicon oxide barrier coating of PET foils is applied by means of a pulsed microwave driven low-pressure plasma. While the adjustment of the microwave power allows for a control of the ion production during the plasma pulse, a substrate bias controls the energy of ions impinging on the substrate. Detailed analysis of deposited films applying oxygen permeation measurements, x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy are correlated with results from plasma diagnostics describing the deposition process. The influence of a change in process parameters such as gas mixture and substrate bias on the gas temperature, electron density, mean electron energy, ion energy and the atomic oxygen density is studied. An additional substrate bias results in an increase in atomic oxygen density up to a factor of 6, although plasma parameter such as electron density of n(e) = 3.8 +/- 0.8 x 10(17) m(-3) and electron temperature of k(B)T(e) = 1.7 +/- 0.1 eV are unmodified. It is shown that atomic oxygen densities measured during deposition process higher than n(O) = 1.8 x 10(21) m(-3) yield in barrier films with a barrier improvement factor up to 150. Good barrier films are highly cross-linked and show a smooth morphology.

Tags: plasma