Arcing in Very Large Area Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapour Deposition Reactors

This thesis presents an investigation into arcing and parasitic plasmas in large area plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition reactors. Two types were investigated: RF breakdown in millimetric gaps in absence of plasma (e.g. dark space shielding), in a millibar pressure range, and RF hollow cathodes in glow discharges. RF breakdown curves (voltage vs. pressure) for parallel plate electrodes generally show a steep left-hand branch at low pressures and a flatter right hand branch at higher pressures. Introducing protrusions or holes in parallel plate electrodes will lower the breakdown voltage in certain conditions. This is, however, not due to the increased electric field at sharp edges or ridges. Instead, both experiments and simulation show that breakdown at high pressure will occur at the protrusion providing the smallest gap, while breakdown at low pressure will occur in the aperture providing the largest gap. This holds true as long as the feature in question is wide enough: Features that are too narrow will lose too many electrons due to diffusion, either to the walls of the apertures or to the surroundings of the protrusion, which negates the effect on the breakdown voltage. An analytical approximation of breakdown in parallel plates with cylindrical protrusions supports this argument. The simulation developed to study breakdown in structured parallel plate electrodes also presents a tool to aid the design of complex RF parts for dark-space shielding. A method was developed to measure the pressure-limits of ignition for RF hollow cathodes, and it could be shown that these limits not only depend on gas type, diameter and depth of the hollow cathode, but also on the presence and/or absence of other hollow cathodes in the vicinity. It could also be conclusively shown that hollow cathodes damage the electrode by sputtering and/or evaporation.

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