*Ignacio Caretti, David Debruyne, Freddy Fack, Robin van Nuffel, Wilmert De Bosscher, Soleras Advanced Coatings BV, Deinze, Belgium
Industrial deposition of dielectric thin films by AC reactive magnetron sputtering is experiencing a growing tendency towards the replacement of metallic rotatable sputter targets by ceramic ones. The latter may a priori have several advantages over their metallic counterparts, namely little or no hysteresis (i.e. a more stable working point), little or no use of reactive gas (reduced cross-talking between adjacent sputter zones) and often a higher deposition rate. However, since ceramic materials are generally brittle and electrically non-conductive, the manufacturing of mechanically tough, sputterable cylindrical targets remains a challenge. In this sense, the parallel development of high-end power supplies with more advanced arc management settings has revealed crucial for sputtering targets with low conductivities. In this work, we will present a family of nickel-based ceramic materials prepared by thermal spray methods. We will show a comprehensive study of their AC sputtering characteristics and of the composition, structure and properties of the deposited films.