INITIAL GROWTH PROCESS OF MAGNETRON SPUTTERING 321 STAINLESS STEEL FILMS OBSERVED BY AFM
To investigate the initial morphological evolution of 321 stainless steel (SS) films, we examined the effect of sputtering time on the morphology of 321 SS film. In this study, a group of samples were prepared at nine different sputtering times within 20 s using radio-frequency (r.f.) magnetron sputtering and characterized by atomic force microscopy (AFM). Only globular-like grains were formed on mica substrates within 6 s, whose average grain size is ~ 21â44 nm. Meanwhile, few grains with larger size are subject to settle at the defect sites of mica substrates. At 8 s, we found large columnar crystallites with the average grain size of 61 nm. From 10 to 14 s, islands grew continuously and coalesced in order to form an interconnected structure containing irregular channels or grooves, with a depth of ~ 3.5â5 nm. Up to 16 s, a nearly continuous film was formed and some new globular-like grains were again present on the film. Study of the AFM image at 20 s suggests that the watercolor masking method designed by us is an effective method, by which we can prepare thin films with steps for the measurement of the thickness of continuous thin films. It is also found that the coverage rate of films increases with the increase in sputtering time (from 2 to 16 s). On the other hand, the increase in root mean square (RMS) roughness is much more significant from 6 to 10 s, and there is a maximum value, 2.81 nm at 10 s due to more islands during deposition. However, RMS roughness decreases with the decrease in length and width of channels or grooves from 10 to 16 s. Especially, a lower RMS roughness of 0.73 nm occurs at 16 s, because of the continuous film produced with a large coverage rate of 98.43%.
321 stainless steel films, magnetron sputtering, initial film growth, atomic force microscopy, surface morphology
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