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Thin Films and Coatings Research Briefs

Research in the Materials Science and Engineering Center at Sandia National Laboratories includes the study of a variety of films, coatings, and related characterization techniques. We provide research and development support for other groups within Sandia, the Department of Energy, other government agencies, and private-sector companies. Areas of special emphasis and expertise within the program include:

We have state-of-the-art facilities for studying fundamental processes in coating research. We develop new processing tools, diagnostics, and techniques grounded in fundamental concepts for the technology. We also develop prototype articles for evaluation by customers.

Sol-Gel Derived Glass and Ceramic Films: As part of our chemically prepared ceramics program, we investigate the fundamental chemistry and physics of ceramic film formation by spin, spray, and dip coating, and several self-assembly strategies including micropen, selective dewetting, and ink-jet patterning. Our capabilities include the design and synthesis of novel chemical precursors that provide additional control of film composition, morphology, and processing options.

Light Wizard Nanostructured ceramic film with ordered porosity made by self-assembly. Electron diffraction pattern (inset) indicates long-range order.electrochemical-based options to engineer surface properties.
Multilayer Sputtered Thin Films: Unlike most other physical-deposition methods, sputtering can be used to deposit, simultaneously or sequentially, widely disparate materials such as metals and ceramics. Sandia maintains research and production sputtering units that can optimize films through independent control of target composition, substrate temperature, chamber pressure, deposition rates, process gas composition, process gas flow rates, and substrate bias. Thin films with excellent thickness control (>98%) and compositional uniformity can be obtained over large substrate areas (up to 8" diameter) using a 3"-diameter target. A sophisticated computer modeling and deposition program offers precise thickness control over large areas by moving (scanning) the substrate with respect to the sputter target during deposition. This program allows researchers to accurately model thickness profiles on figured substrates before deposition and, then, implement the optimum scanning algorithm. Figured substrates, such as optics, with excellent uniformity or optical interference coatings with prescribed thickness gradients can be made.

Thin-Film and Interface Characterization: To develop a fundamental understanding of film formation, interfacial chemistry, and physics, and its development in real time, Sandia has constructed several ultra-high vacuum analysis systems with appropriate surface and interface probes coupled to reaction chambers where either vapor-phase processing or liquid-phase electrochemical processing may be carried out.

Major Resources

Selected Accomplishments

Contacts: William Hammetter, (505) 272-7603,

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