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High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HiPIMS)

High power impulse magnetron sputtering (HIPIMS) is a relatively young physical vapor deposition (PVD) technology that combines magnetron sputtering with pulsed power technology. The objective is to achieve ionization of the sputtered atoms in order to have ions available for substrate etching (pre-treatment) and/or for assistance to the film growth process, leading to well-adherent coatings of desirable microstructure and properties.

In contrast to conventional mid-frequency pulsed sputtering, the power densities during pulse on-time are much higher in HIPIMS. To clearly define the scope, two definitions of HIPIMS are offered here. First, a technical definition could be “HIPIMS is pulsed sputtering where the peak power exceeds the time-averaged power by typically two orders of magnitude.” This definition implies that long pauses exist between pulses of very high amplitude, hence the word “impulse” is justified in the terminology. The peak power density, averaged over the target area, often exceeds 107 W/m2. Alternatively, one could consider the more physical definition “HIPIMS is pulsed sputtering where a very significant fraction of the sputtered atoms becomes ionized.” This definition implies that self-sputtering occurs, which may or may not be exclusively sustained by target ions.

HiPIMS plasma with Cu target

HiPIMS plasma on a copper target