Partial-depth modulation study of anions and neutrals in low-pressure silane plasmas
Partial-depth modulation of the rf power in a capacitive discharge is used to investigate the relative importance of negative ions and neutral radicals for particle formation in low-power low-pressure silane plasmas. For less than 85% modulation depth, anions are trapped indefinitely in the plasma and particle formation ensues, whereas the polymerized neutral flux magnitudes and dynamics are independent of the modulation depth and the powder formation. These observations suggest that negative ions could be the particle precursors in plasma conditions where powder appears many seconds after plasma ignition. Microwave interferometry and mass spectrometry were combined to infer a rough estimate of anion density of similar to 7 x 10(9) cm(-3) which is approximately twice the free electron densit in these modulated plasmas.