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Published December 15, 2019 | Published
Journal Article Open

Investigation of effects of assisted ion bombardment on mechanical loss of sputtered tantala thin films for gravitational wave interferometers


Reduction of Brownian thermal noise due to mechanical loss in high-reflectivity mirror coatings is critical for improving the sensitivity of future gravitational wave detectors. In these mirrors, the mechanical loss at room temperature is dominated by the high refractive index component, amorphous tantala (Ta₂O₅) or tantala doped with titania (Ti∶Ta₂O₅). Toward the goal of identifying mechanisms that could alter mechanical loss, this work investigates the use of assist ion bombardment in the reactive ion beam sputtering deposition of tantala single layers. Low-energy assist ion bombardment can enhance adatom diffusion. Low-energy assist Ar⁺ and Xe⁺ ion bombardment at different conditions was implemented during deposition to identify trends in the mechanical loss with ion mass, ion energy, and ion dose. It is shown that the atomic structure and bonding states of the tantala thin films are not significantly modified by low-energy assist ion bombardment. The coatings mechanical loss remains unaltered by ion bombardment within errors. Based on an analysis of surface diffusivity, it is shown that the dominant deposition of tantala clusters and limited surface diffusion length of oxygen atoms constrain structural changes in the tantala films. A slower deposition rate coupled with a significant increase in the dose of the low-energy assist ions may provide more favorable conditions to improve adatom diffusivity.

Additional Information

© 2019 American Physical Society. (Received 11 June 2019; published 11 December 2019) This work is supported by the National Science Foundation LIGO program through Grant No. 1710957. We also acknowledge the support of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) Center for Coatings Research, jointly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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Published - PhysRevD.100.122004.pdf


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