Electron Beam Evaporation 101

For the non-physics aficionados, electron beam evaporators (e-beam for short) are powerful devices that allow scientists to evaporate very difficult materials such as oxides, metals and magnetic substances. The process itself is very similar to thermal evaporation but often produces higher quality results. These systems accomplish vaporization by targeting a material with a strong electron beam within a vacuum environment. Once vaporized, the material can then be used as a coating.

What are they used for?

The films produced by these machines can fit into two broad categories: optical/oxide films and metallic films. The first would include everyday products such as eyeglasses for the visually impaired and a variety of camera lenses, ranging from mobile phones to professional grade removable ones. Metallic films also have quite the range of products. These e-beam coatings are used on watches, tools, batteries and more.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Due their more simplistic nature in comparison to ion beam sputtering methods (IBS) and ion assisted deposition machines (ADM), evaporation systems for e-beam are the most popular for manufacturing thin films. They also have a lower associated cost of implementation. These alternate systems, in particular sputtering, also have a lower likelihood of heating, and thus damaging, the substrate on which the coating is being applied. Films applied using an e-beam process are high quality and extremely resistant to wear.

While this could vary depending on the desired use of the system, this form of evaporation does not have better step coverage in comparison to IBS and IAD methods. Potential for a non-uniform evaporation rate is also a cause for concern with these systems, although this typically only arises over long periods of time as a result of filament degradation. Overall, the popularity of these systems speaks for itself, they produce consistently high quality coatings with minimal side effects.

How do I choose a system?

Manufacturers and researchers alike eventually reach the question: what is the best e-beam evaporation system? While it can vary between what you’re using the product for, ultimately the best way is to go through a reputable seller and try to find other using the devices in a similar manner and inquire for a review.