Growing industrial constraints regarding productivity, performances and environmental concerns require increasingly optimized components and efficient synthesis routes. In this context, Metallurgy explores new concepts such as multielement alloys. This family of materials, which has already been studied for several years, intends on injecting innovation, in particular via high entropy alloys (HEA), complex concentrated alloys (CCA) and even bulk metallic glasses (BMG). Their elaboration as thin films for instance by sputtering is of particular interest. In addition to the exploration of new materials exhibiting properties surpassing conventional alloys, sputtering allows an easy and convenient navigation through a vast continuum of compositions. This high-throughput synthesis capacity is essential to target compositions of interest regarding specific applications.

Sputtering deposition processes such as high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) are very flexible in order to synthetize multielement alloys. The identification of compositions of interest by combinatorial synthesis generally requires elemental targets at a small scale (research laboratory). Then, an alloyed target is more suitable for the scale-up of the deposition process to a larger scale (pilot installation). Indeed, the sputtering of a complex target made from several elements rarely leads to a thin film with a similar composition. Moreover, the deposition parameters directly influence the composition of the coatings with a fixed target composition.

The goal of this PhD project is to monitor the HiPIMS deposition process applied to the sputtering of multielement targets. The phenomena involved during the sputtering of such sources will be identified thanks to suitable analytical techniques monitoring the growth of the coating and the pulsed plasma. Selected techniques comprise (i) LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) analysis to relatively trace elements in the coating and in the target, (ii) optical emission spectroscopy coupled with (iii) an ultra-high-speed camera to study the species in the plasma along with their dispersal between pulses, (iv) the measurement of the energy distribution of ionized species from the plasma and finally (v) the quantification of coating thicknesses and growth rates by PTR (PhotoThermal Radiometry). Other relevant methods may later supplement the coating and plasma analysis. Except for LIBS and PTR, the techniques are already available inside a HiPIMS deposition chamber. For LIBS, therefore, the ex-situ definition of all technical specifications necessary to measure various compositions, the demonstration of the feasibility of these ex situ measurements and the design of an implantable analysis device inside a deposition chamber should be carried out. PTR analyses are already possible thanks to a compact measurement head but its integration has not been done yet. LIBS and PTR in-situ developments should then be considered.

The PhD project will be fully integrated into the industrial IMPACT Chair (Innovative Materials and Processes Accelerated through Computing Technologies) from INSTN (French national institute for nuclear science and technology). This project is co-funded by CEA and industrial partners Framatome and Safran. These alloys do not only represent a strong interest for them, but will also benefit from a better understanding of the phenomena related to the sputtering of complex targets and a greater control of the monitoring tools. The PhD candidate will benefit from the skills and the researchers of SEARS/LISL regarding thin film deposition along with the monitoring tools and of SEARS/LANIE for LIBS analysis. Polytechnique Montréal technological University will contribute thanks to its unique experience on ultra-high-speed camera and plasma characterizations.


CEA Saclay
Département de Physique-Chimie (DPC)
91191 Gif-sur-Yvette – FRANCE


CEA: Alexandre MICHAU,, 01 69 08 48 36