Light Transparent, Electrically Conductive Coatings by Filtered Cathodic Arc Plasma Deposition
Award last edited on: 8/6/2020

Sponsored Program
Awarding Agency
Total Award Amount
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Solicitation Topic Code

Principal Investigator
Michael McFarland

Company Information

AASC (AKA: Applied Aerospace Structures Corporation~Parsons of California)

PO Box 6189
Stockton, CA 95206
   (209) 982-0160

Research Institution


Phase I

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This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project proposes to develop a new class of UV-transmitting, electrically conductive coatings by using filtered cathodic arc plasma deposition (FCAPD). Cathodic arc plasmas are characterized by relatively high ion energy (20-150 eV) that lead to denser films. Macroparticles which typically contaminate such plasmas can be filtered using curved magnetic filters that have been developed by Berkeley's Plasma Application Group. Filtered cathodic arc coatings are not only dense but may be grown in a vacuum or reactive environments. The window of partial pressure for stochiometric compound films is wider than for evaporation or sputtering methods. Moreover, sputtered coatings (and more so beam-evaporated films) are characterized by porosity, which increases the thickness for the required electrical conductivity, with reduced optical transmission. The primary objective of Phase I is to demonstrate that a thin coating can be produced which is highly conductive and transmits between 80- 90% of the incident UV radiation. Once the feasibility of using FCAPD for producing high density coatings that show high electrical conductivity and high light transparency have been answered, Phase II will optimize the process for larger areas. Engineering development, marketing and sales of coating units is the province of Phase III. Commercial applications for FCAPD films include: electrochromic automotive and aircraft windows; heat mirrors; optoelectronic devices such as UV triggered diamond high voltage switches; solar cell surfaces for space applications Cathodic arc deposition of TiN coatings is a well established technology which supports tens of millions of dollars of business annually worldwide in coating equipment sales and hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the coatings generated by that equipment.

Phase II

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This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II project will build upon and extend the encouraging results obtained in the Phase I program, which investigated the properties of thin, electrically conductive, UV transparent films and tri-layer metal coatings as possible diamond switch electrode structures for power electronics. Phase I benchmarked UV transmission, electrical conductivity and substrate adhesion for 14 to 44 nm Mo films, deposited using an energetic filtered cathodic arc deposition process. A companion program demonstrated a significant reduction in the diamond switch on-state resistance, and hence, improvement in switch efficiency, using these films as contact electrodes. The Phase II program will apply these results to a commercially relevant specification by demonstrating that the thin film deposition process can be scaled and the complex thin film mesa-shaped electrode topology can be realized. The anticipated mesa-shaped design will consist of a series of narrow tri-layer conduits, with the relatively large spaces in between coated with the thin UV transparent, electrically conductive film. This design maximizes the UV input into the diamond, which is used to activate the switch, while minimizing the electrical resistance. The properties of the electrode will be benchmarked against commercially relevant operating requirements. The project's commercial potential is considered significant since it both supports the entry of diamond switch technology into the $21 billion per year power electronic device market as well as advancing the energetic deposition process thin film knowledge base, which in turn provides an improved platform for launching additional commercial ventures.