Thin layers

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A thin film is a coating with a reduced thickness compared to the substrate on which it is deposited. It can vary from a few nanometres to about ten micrometres, and is generally less than 100 nm. The use of thin films makes it possible to modify the surface properties of materials, such as their hardness, wear resistance, chemical reactivity or electrical conductivity. These coatings have one of their dimensions at the nanoscale, and according to the INRS they are therefore considered nanomaterials. Their physical and chemical properties can therefore differ significantly from those of a macroscopic object of the same chemical composition. For example, an insulating material on a macroscopic scale can be conductive in the form of a thin layer, with the tunnel effect.

Thin films are used to provide specific properties to the surface of an object, while having the bulk characteristics of the substrate.

Thin films can be produced using different deposition techniques, such as sputtering, vacuum evaporation, chemical vapour growth and electrochemical deposition. They are used in many industrial applications such as microelectronics, optics, flexible packaging, sensors, catalysts, smart textiles and biochemistry. In the electronics industry, for example, these coatings are deposited to produce devices such as resistors, diodes and transistors used in chips or solar cells, or to make contact layers and passivating layers.
Thin films can also be used to produce functional coatings, such as anti-reflective coatings for optics, decorative coatings for jewellery and corrosion resistant coatings for metal parts. The properties of these coatings can be tailored by using different materials, multiple layer stacks or specific surface treatments. Finally, the use of thin films in the production of nanostructured materials that exhibit unique physical and chemical properties due to their size and shape is also an important area of research.

Surface and interface characterisation in thin films is an important area of materials science.

Different measurement techniques, such as scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), can be used to characterise these layers. Scanning electron microscopy allows the surface morphology of thin films to be imaged on a nanoscale, while transmission electron microscopy allows the measurement of their thickness down to fractions of a nanometre and also of their crystal structure. Secondary ion mass spectrometry and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy allow the analysis of the chemical composition of thin films and their possible variation at different depths with nanometer depth resolutions. The TESCAN ANALYTICS laboratory is equipped with a wide range of analytical equipment and benefits from a strong expertise in the characterisation of physical and chemical properties of thin films, in contaminant detection and identification and in failure analysis. Our team will help you to solve problems encountered during the production or use of thin films in order to optimise your manufacturing processes, reduce your costs and optimise the performance of your products.

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All these issues and more have been solved by our team. Our full range of equipment and expertise allows us to offer you the optimal analytical solution.