Physical vapor deposition (PVD) is a variety of vacuum deposition and is a general term used to describe any of a variety of methods to deposit thin films by the condensation of a vaporized form of the material onto various surfaces (e.g., onto semiconductor wafers). The coating method involves purely physical processes such as high temperature vacuum evaporation or plasma sputter bombardment rather than involving a chemical reaction at the surface to be coated as in chemical vapor deposition. The term physical vapor deposition appears originally in the 1966 book “Vapor Deposition by CF Powell, JH Oxley and JM Blocher Jr, but Michael Faraday was using PVD to deposit coatings as far back as 1838.
Variants of PVD include, in order of increasing novelty:
PVD is used in the manufacture of items including semiconductor devices, aluminized PET film for balloons and snack bags, and coated cutting tools for metalworking. Besides PVD tools for fabrication special smaller tools mainly for scientific purposes have been developed. They mainly serve the purpose of extreme thin films like atomic layers and are used mostly for small substrates. A good example are mini e-beam evaporators which can deposit monolayers of virtually all materials with melting points up to 3500°C.
Some of the techniques used to measure the physical properties of PVD coatings are:
See thin-film deposition for a more general discussion of this class of manufacturing technique.