Funnelling of rf current via a plasmoid through a grid hole in an rf capacitive plasma reactor
The boundaries of capacitively coupled radio-frequency (rf) plasma reactors generally include at least one grounded metal grid or perforated plate for purposes of gas flow or diagnostic access. When increasing the rf power, an intense localized plasma (a plasmoid) can spontaneously ignite in a hole of a grounded surface. Experiments described here show that the plasmoid funnels rf current through the hole to the other side of the grounded plate, thereby increasing the effective grounded area in contact with the plasma. Hence, plasmoid ignition is always accompanied by a drop in the dc self-bias voltage of the rf electrode. The small area of the plasmoid aperture means that the rf current density passing through the plasmoid is very high, causing intense optical emission and strong local heating. Plasmoid ignition can therefore cause a loss of process reproducibility and potentially lead to melting and eventual destruction of reactor components.