PHTN1432: Vacuum Systems and Thin Film Technology
(2018 Winter)

Vapour plume from our PVD-75 sputtering system

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Course Description

This course introduces students to the theory and practice of high vacuum systems as well as thin film deposition. Students will study the physical behaviour of gases and the technology of vacuum systems including system operation and design. Applications examined will include high-vacuum coating systems and gas laser tube filling where attention will be paid to issues of gas purity and sources of contamination. Thin film deposition technologies will also be covered including thermal evaporation and sputtering techniques. Application of these technologies in fabricating optical coatings such as mirror, antireflective, and dielectric filter coatings will be examined. This course includes a substantial laboratory component involving the processing of gas discharge and laser tubes (including contamination control), mass spectroscopy, and the design and fabrication of various thin film optical elements such as dielectric filters and mirrors.

PHTN1432 Lab Images
A collage of images shot in PHTN1432 laboratories. This is an exceptionally practical course with laboratory work comprising an important part in which students can apply concepts learned in the classroom. This is the essence of college education: the application of theory to real-world problems and structures. Labs are completed in small groups (usually five or less students) in the Mass, Infrared, and Optical spectroscopy laboratory in V14A as well as our class-1000 cleanroom facility in V113C where thin-film structures such as dielectric filters and mirrors are fabricated.


Prerequisites for this course include PHTN1300 Principles of Light Sources and Lasers. This course is required for entry to this course.

Evaluation ...

One midterm test valued at 20% and one final test valued at 40%
Midterm on Monday, March 19th, 2018 in class (one hour in length)
Final Exam In Class on Monday, April 23rd, 2018.

Labs and assignments combined for a total of 40%

Course Policies ...

Course policies follow the Standardized Policies and Procedures for CEE (dated January 2011). In summary:

Complete course policies can be found in the Teaching and Learning Plan (T&LP) document found on Blackboard.


Basic Vacuum Practice, Third Edition by Varian Vacuum Products (now part of Agilent), Part Number 900-0085

Course Notes and Links

For Part I (Vacuum Technology) of the course: For Part II (Deposition Technology) of the course: General Notes:

Laboratory Assignments

Laboratory work is a vital portion of this course. Whether experiencing first-hand the difficulties encountered while depositing thin films in a high-vacuum evaporator in the cleanroom (for example, controlling deposition rates manually on a thermal source and producing an accurate deposit thickness) or simply observing how an auto-ranging vacuum gauge operates in the spectroscopy lab, laboratory work provides hands-on skills not obtained from classroom work alone. Niagara is proud to have two unique dedicated lab spaces: the spectroscopy lab in V14A and the class-1000 cleanroom in V13C, both of which are utilized in this course.

Students in 2018W will complete five laboratory assignments in small groups (A and B) which perform different parts of the lab alternatively.

CHECK THE SCHEDULE carefully since some for some labs students attend only on alternate weeks and for others students attend EVERY WEEK.

Lab 1: Gas Discharge Tubes

Using a turbomolecular high-vacuum system, gas discharge tubes will be evacuated and filled with a variety of gases. The effects of gas pressure on the discharge will be observed and the effect of impurities on the line spectrum of a discharge will be examined. This is a one week lab which will be performed on alternating weeks by small groups of students

Lab Weighting: 2.0
Group A will perform the lab on the week of 2018/01/22
Group B will perform the lab on the week of 2018/01/29

A PRELAB (worth 10% of the total lab mark) must be submitted prior to the lab. No extensions.

Lab report is DUE two weeks after the lab is performed (at the beginning of the lab period): Group A on the week of 2018/02/05, Group B on the week of 2018/02/12

Lab 2: Pressure Measurement

A two week lab in which students alternate parts A and B in two consecutive weeks. Pressure measurement techniques for high-vacuum systems are examined. The performance of various roughing gauges will be investigated for accuracy over a given range and the effect of gas composition on gauge accuracy will be investigated. Residual gas analysis is then performed in which gas samples will be analyzed for isotopic purity using a quadrupole mass spectrometer - in addition to pure gases such as neon and carbon dioxide, air will be analyzed.

Lab Weighting: 2.0
Group A will perform part A on the week of 2018/02/05 and part B on the week of 2018/02/12
Group B will perform part A on the week of 2018/02/12 and part B on the week of 2018/02/05

Lab report is DUE, for both groups, on the week of 2018/02/19 (at the beginning of the lab period)

Lab 3: Gas Laser Tube

Students will use a high-vacuum system (including turbomolecular pump and RGA) to evacuate and reprocess a helium-neon gas laser tube. Processing includes removing residual impurities in the tube by thermal and gas flushing methods. Students will be required to adjust pressure of the gas mix used (helium and neon) to optimize laser tube output. Once optimized, the tube will be sealed and monitored for long-term stability (i.e. the effects of residual gases in the tube such as trapped oxygen will be observed). Residual gas analysis will be used to show how gases evolve as the laser operates and E/P calculations will be performed comparing experimental to theoretical ratios for neon.

Lab Weighting: 2.0
Group A will perform the lab on the week of 2018/02/19

A PRELAB (worth 10% of the total lab mark) must be submitted prior to the lab. No extensions.

Lab report is DUE immediastely after the March break at the beginning of the lecture period: 2018/03/05 at 5:30 pm

Lab 4: Basic Thin Film Techniques - Thermal Evaporation Deposition

Students will operate a high-vacuum thermal deposition system to deposit a thin-film of aluminum onto glass substrates. During this lab students will be exposed to the operating principles of high-vacuum systems, practice working in a class-1000 cleanroom environment, gain experience controlling deposition rate by regulating filament current, and utilize in-process quartz crystal thickness monitoring to assure a proper film thickness. All of these techniques and procedures will be used in the next lab.

BOTH Groups will perform the lab on the week of 2018/03/19

Lab 5: Optical Calibration of a Thin-Film monitor

Students will calibrate the tooling factors on a thin-film monitor by using optical means in which basic dielectric filters consisting of a layer of dielectric Na3AlF6 sandwiched between two thin layers of aluminum are fabricated. This structure, which resembles a Fabry-Perot interferometer, acts as a high-performance optical filter with a narrow spectral width. Filters will be modelled with thin film software, deposited in the cleanroom using the Bendix thermal evaporator, and filters will be analyzed by a Perkin-Elmer Lambda-3B spectrophotometer (in V114A outside the lab time). By correcting the model in software, the tooling factors for various substrate locations in the chamber will be determined.

PRELAB must be submitted to the lab instructor at least fifteen minutes prior to the assigned start time of the lab: FIFTEEN MINUTES early is the non-negotiable cutoff time and prelabs submitted after that will receive an automatic mark of ZERO. No excuses, no negotiation.

Sample Lab Marking Scheme as a PDF document. Print and append as the last page of the lab report.

Lab Weighting: 2.0
Group A will perform the lab on the week of 2018/03/26
Group B will perform the lab on the week of 2018/04/02

Lab report is DUE one week after the lab is performed (at the beginning of the lab period): Group A on the week of 2018/04/02, Group B on the week of 2018/04/09

Lab 6: Sputtering Techniques

An assignment and demo lab in which the technique of sputtering will be outlined.
Complete this ASSIGNMENT (pdf) which is due on Monday April 10th by 1:30 pm.

Lab Weighting: 1.0
Both Groups will attend the lab on the week of 2017/04/03

Assignment is DUE for BOTH groups, on MONDAY 2017/04/10 by 1:30 pm

The lab schedule is subject to change based on availability of laboratory equipment


For the Photonics Technician/Technology programs ...

For this specific course ...
Professor Mark Csele
Office: V13A (Office hours are POSTED on the Electroluminescent panel on the office door)
Telephone: (905) 735-2211 x.7629
E-Mail: (Be sure to include 'Lasers' in the subject line to avoid deletion by an anti-spam filter)


You are visitor # since Oct, 2001
Copyright (C) Professor M. Csele and Niagara College, Canada, 2001-2018
This course is part of the TECHNOLOGY division