Labotec Logo
Ion Implant Systems

Ion Implant Systems

Date posted: October 6, 2017 // Uncategorized

For millennia humans have had to accept that the various raw materials they employed to build their homes, to manufacture weapons and for many other purposes had certain fixed properties that made them useful for some tasks, but less so for others. However, progress in the field of materials science has since negated such limitations, not only through the introduction of new man-made substances but, as a result of the new-found ability to modify the properties of existing natural materials, to meet specific needs.

Though not exactly fulfilling the alchemist’s dream of turning lead into gold, ion implant systems are able to perform some equally impressive transformations. Typically, it is used to modify certain metals and non-metals, thus enabling them to be used in tasks for which they would have been unsuited prior to such modification.

The process of implantation involves accelerating an ionised stream of an element with the desirable properties, directing it so that it collides with a solid target consisting of the material which it is desired to modify. On penetrating the target material, the invading ions undergo a cascading series of collisions with its component atoms and electrons. Each collision drains some of their energy and once it is completely dissipated, the ions come to rest and are integrated into the target material.

Even though the depth of penetration is relatively shallow, it is sufficient to impart the required new properties to the surface layer of the target. The footprint of an ionised ben is also quite small, typically no more than one square centimetre. Therefore, when it is required to treat large surface areas, the beam of an ion implant system must be rasterised, much like the beams used to create the images in the cathode ray tubes that predated the use of plasma cells, LCDs and LEDs in our more recent flat-screen TVs.

Typically, when applied to metallic targets, the desired goal might, for example, be to increase its resistance to corrosion or to reduce its coefficient of friction and will depend upon the element used as the modifier. One application from which the DIY enthusiast has benefitted involved the use of ionised nitrogen or tungsten to treat steel drill bits. In the case, implantation results in surface compression, which serves to toughen the steel and thus make it less vulnerable to fractures when drilling. Similar modifications are also applied to the manufacture of artificial joints, dental implants and other prosthetics, thus extending their lifespan and limiting the need for repairs or replacement.

Non-metals in the form of glass, ceramics, plastics and other polymers, and various semiconducting materials are also routinely subjected to structural modifications with the aid of ion implant systems. The semiconductor industry in particular relies heavily upon the application of this technology as the means to introduce the chemical dopants used to selectively modify the electrical properties of various silicon-based components employed in solid state electronics.

The automotive industry is also a significant user of this technology and, together with its many other users in South Africa, requires quality equipment and ion sources. Among its other specialities, LIT Africa is a long-established local expert in the supply of world-class equipment, spares and consumables for use in ion implantation technology.