Plasma cleaning basics

Plasma cleaning and plasma etching

As technology becomes more and more specialized in various industries, new techniques are always being developed to not only help design and build various products, but also to make them as efficient as possible.

Two of the most innovative techniques in use today within many industries are plasma cleaning and plasma etching.

Similar in many ways, each also differs when used for various applications.

Utilizing various aspects of chemistry, physics, and other related sciences, these techniques are often used in industries and manufacturing facilities where advanced microelectronics and semiconductors are designed and built.

To learn more about the various aspects of using a plasma cleaner and how plasma etching is also used in the design and building process, here are some key details about their applications.

Removing Contaminants

When it comes to the removal of contaminants, a plasma cleaner can be useful in many ways. Since contamination and other impurities must be removed in a way that still protects the delicate electronics or other devices, numerous techniques are used.

For example, by using various gasses such as oxygen and argon, an energized plasma barrier discharge can be created.

By doing this, surface treatment can be performed using a combination of ionized gas and high frequency voltages, which can then ionize low-pressure gasses, atoms, and molecules. As a result, not only is the cleaning method considered to be environmentally safe, but also effective.

putting on plastic gloves

Gas Etch Chemistry

To have an effective plasma etching process, it is very important to find the correct gas etch chemistry.

To do so, a number of factors will be involved, such as the electron source, type of gas or gasses being used, pressure, and vacuum. When attempting plasma cleaning, the gas etch chemistry will be most effective when it forms a correct volatility with the product to be cleaned or etched.

However, this can be easier to accomplish with some materials than others, especially when working with certain types of magnetic materials.

In these situations, the appropriate volatility will be reached only when water temperature has been increased.

Molecular Sandblasting

To put this type of cleaning and etching process in perspective, most scientists recommend thinking of it as molecular sandblasting.

As an example, materials that are easily oxidized, such as copper and silver, do very well when cleaned in this manner. Using gasses such as helium and argon, atoms and ions become plasma-activated.

When they do, organic contamination can then be removed by being vaporized and eliminated from the cleaner’s chamber.

Once this is done, contact angle measurements can then be used to determine if a sufficient percentage of surface treatment contaminants, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons are no longer present.


Hydrogen Plasma Etching

One of the most widely-used techniques in research and development, manufacturing facilities, and other similar environments, hydrogen plasma etching relies on a number of factors and details being very precise.

One of these is the amount of pressure used, since this greatly determines how well the plasma etching process will be in most situations.

Generally, a plasma cleaner or plasma etcher needs to have a chamber where the pressure levels are very low. This will usually involve readings of 100 PA or less, since this is what will allow gas to ionize and generate low-pressure plasma.

hydrogen molecules

Patterned Conductive Layer

Since virtually no two plasma cleanings or etchings will be alike when it comes to the removal of contaminants, great care must be used in many situations, especially those involving materials having a patterned conductive layer coated on their outer surface.

When this is the case, remember that having plasma come in direct contact with the coating can cause significant damage to the parts being cleaned.

To keep this from happening, neutral atoms must be used in the cleaning process, which will allow them to be put into a metastable state within the plasma. In addition to this, it’s also important to realize that this same process can be used with glass surfaces that have this type of conductive layer coating as well.

While these processes are quite complex, having the right equipment can make a tremendous difference.

Since companies often have thousands or even millions of dollars invested in design projects, using the proper plasma cleaning and plasma etching processes can ensure all goes well.

To learn more about the various types of equipment used to perform these very specialized cleaning processes, companies such as Tantec can answer questions regarding plasma treatment systems, surface modifications, and various metal surface treatments.