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Department of Physics Sputter Coaters

Every month, we like to feature articles about groups on campus outside of IT@Sam who are doing innovative things with technology. This month we feature the Department of Physics and their sputter coaters.

Sputter Coater

Sputter coating is a process that covers a specimen with a very fine layer of metal, such as gold or palladium. This process is necessary to view microscopic specimen under a high powered microscope. The coating increases the ability to conduct electricity and produce a high resolution image of objects that cannot be seen with conventional microscopes. Sputter coaters that use either gold or palladium are referred to as conventional sputter coaters.


The Department of Phyiscs here at Sam Houston State University has recently purchased the NSC 4000, a more detailed plasma coater. This sputter coater allows for any type of metal to coat a specimen. Since gold and palladium have relatively large grains resolution can become a problem when looking at the finer details of an object. Other metals have finer grains. This means that the NSC-4000 can deposit finer grains of metal on a specimen which will achieve an image with higher resolution when viewed under a high powered microscope.


With conventional sputter coating, the thickness of the metal must reach a certain threshold to be conductive, usually around 20 nanometers or more. Applying this much metal to the specimen can cover up some finer details. With this new sputter coater, conductivity is achieved with a thickness of around 1 nanometer. Again, this allows for much higher resolution.

For more information about sputter coaters, please contact Dr Hui Fang.


If you know of a group on campus doing innovative things with technology, please contact us. We're happy to share this information with the SHSU campus community!

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