AEM Deposition would like to give you an overview of how the sputtering process works to apply platings to a variety of surfaces. The more you know, the better the chances are that you won’t overlook valuable quantities of precious metals that you could have on hand in your used sputtering targets.
It’s an electronic process that deposits thin films of metals or other materials onto a variety of surfaces. Most often, sputtering is used to apply thin platings onto silicon wafers, solar panels and display screens.
Sputtering is done in a vacuum chamber into which an inert gas is introduced – in most cases, argon. Two items are placed into that chamber: the item to be plated, and the “target” that contains the material that will be applied. A negative electrical charge is applied to the target, causing some of the electrons that it contains to travel to the material to be coated. Presto! You’ve got a thin film of plating right where you want it. But note that the use of the term “target” can be confusing, since it is the source of the plating material that is used, not its final destination.
Sputtering targets are now being used in a many industries for the first time. As a result, targets are being used to apply cadmium, chromium, gold, indium, iridium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, silver, tungsten, zirconium, and even more materials that can be used as coatings or platings.
That can vary, depending on the value of the metal that you are using as platings, the presence of secondary metals in the sputtering targets that you use, the strength and efficiency of your sputtering applications, and more. The one way to be sure is to send your used sputtering targets to a qualified precious metals recycler for testing.