What is ion implantation?

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Historically, the first ion implanter was helium based, constructed and operated in 1911 at Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge by Ernest Rutherford and his students. In 1949, Shockley filed for a patent, “Semiconductor Translating Device” describing the p-n junction fabrication using ion implantation. In 1954, he filed another patent, “Forming of Semiconductor Devices by Ionic Bombardment” giving a fundamental description for ion implantation equipment.

Between 1960 and 1976, commercial equipment manufacturing of ion implanters became firmly established. In 1976, Varian Associates developed the model DF-4, the first in-line, wafer-to-wafer, high-throughput (about 200 wafers per hour) ion implanter and by the end of 1978, it became the most widely used commercial ion implantation system in the world. Initially, the development of ion implantation technology was utilised to dope (meaning the introduction of dopant ions such as boron, phosphorus or arsenic) semiconductor materials for the IC industries and it was a number of years before it was used to improve the properties of metals.

Modern Ion implantation is the physical and/or chemical modification of the surface material without raising substrate temperature by bombarding the material with a beam of very high energy ions. This process improves the surface (from 1/10 µm to 10µm) properties  benefiting applications across all industrial sectors.

Ion implantation in action
Process in action

The ion implantation technique involves bombarding the surface material with specific ions (secondary vacuum pressure < 10-5 mbar) whose energy are around 100keV. On metallic substrate, penetration into the material is very intense and the ions are fixed, losing their energy after collision with the substrate atoms.

When applied to polymers, the temperature is lower(< 100°C).  This cold plasma vacuum treatment alters the material structure  up to a depth of several micrometres without increasing its thickness because it is not a coating.

What are the advantages of ion implantation?

  • Increases surface hardness of parts, offering excellent resistance to adhesive wear
  • Reduces friction coefficient, improves the anti-seizure property of parts
  • Increases fatigue threshold without increasing temperature which preserves the material’s mechanical properties
  • No geometric deformation of parts
  • Preserves surface finish (mirror polish, for example) and mechanical properties (low temperature tempered steels, for example)
  • No risk of delamination (this is not a coating), no scaling
  • Applicable to metals, polymers and elastomers

Improvement of the friction coefficient of elastomers after ion implantation

What are the applications of ion implantation?

    • Pharmaceutical industry: seals, washers, etc.
    • Medical industry: syringes, caps, membranes, silicone implants, etc.
    • Car parts: V seals, lipped seals, O-ring seals, connectors, etc.
  • METAL PARTS (titanium, aluminium, precious metals, etc.)
    • Precision components and micro-mechanisms, high tech parts for the aeronautical and defence industries.
    • Medical industry: prostheses, etc.
    • Luxury products: watch component treatments, etc.

For more information on ion implantation, please contact Bodycote

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