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  • SwRI Receives $1.5M for Thin-Film Deposition Development
Jul 2013
SAN ANTONIO, July 17, 2013 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has received a $1.5 million, three-year DARPA award to develop a low-thermal, thin-film deposition process for military vehicles, photovoltaics and IR missile domes.

Current thin-film deposition processes cannot be used on military vehicles and other equipment because they exceed the temperature limit of the material. Under DARPA’s Local Control of Materials Synthesis (LoCo) program, low-temperature approaches for thin-film deposition will be investigated. The program aims to overcome the reliance on high-thermal energy input by examining the process of thin-film deposition at the molecular component level in areas such as reactant flux, surface mobility and reaction energy.

“Drawing from our experience in developing novel plasma technologies and thin-film deposition processes, we are focusing on the thin-film deposition process component of reactant flux,” said Dr. Vicky Poenitzsch, a senior research scientist in SwRI’s Materials Engineering Department and manager of the DARPA project. “We are developing a novel plasma technology — named high power impulse plasma source or HiPIPS — that will provide a high flux of reactive species to a surface while maintaining an overall low deposition temperature.”

The first year of the contract will focus on a proof-of-concept demonstration of the HiPIPS plasma source, Poenitzsch said. “In the second year we will integrate our plasma source with other performer teams’ technologies for surface reactivity and mobility.” The third year will focus on depositing a challenge film on a substrate and a DARPA-selected challenge film on a Department of Defense part.

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