Korvus Technology

Minimising Contamination: How PVD Cluster Systems Ensure Optimal R&D Output

Minimising contamination in material processing is crucial as it ensures your samples are free of oxides, water molecules, hydrocarbons, and other unwanted materials for ideal adhesion and zero defects. Attempting to manage contamination risks across numerous physical vapour deposition (PVD) samples of different material types or stages adds more complexity. 

Cluster systems allow users to maintain multiple PVD samples at different stages while reducing the risks of contamination. Reducing contamination in PVD with cluster systems allows users to work with different materials and separate substances in different stages while maintaining the vacuum seal. 

Learn more below about how PVD cluster systems can ensure optimal R&D output by minimising contamination risks. 

Overview of PVD Cluster Systems

Physical vapour deposition (PVD) is a type of deposition that uses a physical process to transform a source material into a vapour or plasma. The resulting vapour or plasma then moves onto a substrate where it can condense on its surface [1]. PVD processes are often used to produce metal vapour deposited on electrically conductive substrates to create thin alloy coatings. 

PVD cluster systems allow multiple PVD chambers to connect together so researchers can automate transfers between samples without disrupting the vacuum seal. In doing so, cluster systems offer minimised contamination risks. Cluster systems differentiate from standalone PVD systems because they can contain numerous layers of different classes of materials, rather than a single sample. 

The advantages of using PVD cluster systems include the following:


      • Reduced risks of contamination

      • Easier management while maintaining the vacuum seal

      • Can contain multiple materials at once

      • Can contain materials at different stages

    The Effect of Contamination in PVD Processes

    PVD processes require contaminant-free surfaces to facilitate conductivity and natural adhesion. One minor blip in this process can ruin the sample. 

    The substrate surface can form an oxide layer when it’s exposed to the regular atmosphere. This thin film, along with any other materials, can inhibit the natural barrier and impose on the conductivity and adhesion of the sample. 

    Any contamination, even intruding on the natural barrier by a few nanometers, can reduce the quality, functionality, and longevity of deposited films. 

    Sources of Contamination

    Some common sources of contamination in PVD processes include the following [4]:


        • Oxidation

        • Hydrocarbon or water molecule deposits

        • Surface irregularities

        • Growth defects created during deposition (like pinhole defects)

        • Other seed particles

      These contaminants can enter samples at numerous points during deposition. When samples are exposed to any atmospheric conditions, you face the risk of contamination. One common solution to preventing contamination is sputter deposition, but this method cannot always produce high-quality epitaxial films [2].


      Contamination of Substrate-CoatingInterface Caused by Ion Etching

      Image source:https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6412/12/6/846

      Minimising Contamination Through PVD Cluster Systems

      PVD cluster systems reduce the likelihood of contamination by creating a more sealed environment that minimises exposure to atmospheric contaminants. The automated solution prevents breaking vacuum seals during sample transfers with efficient substrate transfer mechanisms. In doing so, PVD cluster systems can keep your coating material pinhole-free. 

      Systems like Korvus Technology HEX-L system offer real-time fault detection for the highest yielding results [3]. With that being said, reducing contamination in PVD with cluster systems still requires standard maintenance, cleanliness, and sanitation protocols to ensure minimal contamination. 

      Real-World Impacts and Applications

      Manufacturers around the world use PVD processes to create a range of goods, from optical coatings and reflective solar cells to semiconductor devices. PVD cluster systems can provide crucial risk-aversion to numerous industries, including the following:


          • Wear-resistant coatings

          • Medical optics

          • Energy generation and storage

        Looking for a Cluster System?

        Reducing contamination in PVD with cluster systems requires quality equipment. At Korvus Technology, we offer state-of-the-art PVD R&D cluster system technology that allows you to begin with a single chamber, then connect further as your needs expand. Each HEX-L chamber can fit multiple sources, meaning the expansion opportunities are versatile. 

        Any industry reliant on PVD processes can reduce contamination risks and increase efficiency of their R&D through the clustering method. This advancement is only the start of future innovations to come. Contact Korvus Technology today to learn more about our PVD cluster system technology. 


        [1] Baptista, A., Silva, F., Porteiro, J., & Miguez, J. (2018, November 14). Sputtering Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) Coatings: A Critical Review on Process Improvement and Market Trend Demands [Review of Sputtering Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) Coatings: A Critical Review on Process Improvement and Market Trend Demands]. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328948644_Sputtering_Physical_Vapour_Deposition_PVD_Coatings_A_Critical_Review_on_Process_Improvement_and_Market_Trend_Demands

        [2] Muhammad S. Zafar, Sana Zohaib. Sputter Deposition – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Www.sciencedirect.com. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/materials-science/sputter-deposition

        [3] (n.d.). Transpector® CPM – Integrated Process Monitor for 300mm High Pressure Degas [Review of Transpector® CPM – Integrated Process Monitor for 300mm High Pressure Degas]. IINFICON Application Note. Retrieved October 23, 2023, from https://api.inficon.com/v1/attachment/application-note-transpector-cpm[4] Panjan, P., Drnovšek, A., Gselman, P., ?ekada, M., & Panjan, M. (2020). Review of Growth Defects in Thin Films Prepared by PVD Techniques. Coatings, 10(5), 447. https://doi.org/10.3390/coatings10050447