Sputter rate standard

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Why do you need sputter rate standards anyway? Each ion source will produce a different sputter rate depending on the conditions that the ion source is operated at, as well as other factors such as the angle of the ion source to the sample. Changing the beam voltage, condenser and focus (beam size), pressure (amount of argon or other gas) and raster area all affect the sputter rate. By using a sputter rate standard you can characterize your ion source for a particular set of operating conditions for a known oxide layer thickness of standard material (Ta2O5 or SiO2).

To further complicate things, the sputter rate of different materials varies greatly and that makes it very difficult to accurately know the true sputter rate for compounds and multi layer samples.

The link to this SPECs article for some very helpful insights into sputter rates on different materials:

Sputter Rate Information

And, here is a link to a PNNL publication on the sputter rates of oxide films relative to SiO2.

TaO5 sputter rate standard

RBD Instruments provides a 1000 Angstrom oxide layer TaO5 sputter rate standard which is approximately .75 X .50 inch in size.  Both sides of the standard can be used, so one standard can last a long time.   The RBD part number is TA2O5RE.

SiO2 sputter rate standard

RBD Instruments  provides a 1000 Angstrom oxide layer SiO2 sputter rate standard which is approximately .50 X .50 inch in size and comes in a two pack.  The RBD part number is SIO2CALRE  and like the TaO5 standard, both sides can be used.

To request a quote for either standard, contact RBD here or go to the upper right hand corner of the RBD Instruments website and create a sales ticket. (www.rbdinstruments.com)

AVC solenoid replacement procedure

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This procedure describes how to replace the solenoids in the Auto Valve Controller (AVC) used on Physical Electronics PHI surface analysis systems such as XPS Photo-electron and scanning Auger electron spectrometers.

The AVC provides control of the pneumatic valves on the system by using 24V DC solenoids to route air to either open or close the valves as needed.  The symptom for a failed solenoid valve is that the light on the AVC remote box indicates that the valve is open, but the actual valve does not open.  Or, it may be that the valve will not close.

The function of each valve is listed below:

V1 Gate valve – Isolates load lock from main vacuum chamber
V2 Vent valve – Isolates nitrogen back-fill from load lock
V3 Isolation valve – Isolates turbo pump from load lock
V4 Differential pumping valve – Isolates turbo pump from ion gun
V5 Vent valve – Isolates nitrogen from turbo pump
V6 Pre-pump valve – Isolates mechanical pump from load lock

There are two ways to test the solenoids;

1. Remove the air line (s) to the suspect pneumatic valve and open/close the valve manually.  Some valves have two air lines and some have only one. In the case of two air line valves (typically V1 and V4) air should come out of the top air line to the valve when closed, and the bottom airline on the valve when open. If the AVC remote box indicates that the valve is changing states but the air does not change, then the solenoid is most likely bad.

2. You can remove the P10 cable plug from the back of the AVC measure the 24V DC voltage between the pins for the valve in question as shown in the table below. When ON, you will have 24V DC between the two pins for the solenoid in question.

Before you remove the P10 cable you need to close all valves on the AVC remote (V1, V2, V3 and V4) and turn off the turbo pump (s).  Also turn off the air to the AVC manifold on the back of the electronic or vacuum console.  Usually the air is connected to the console with a quick connect fitting.  See Important Notes before turning off the air.

AVC solenoid wire connector info

AVC solenoid wire connector info



When a solenoid is not working properly it is possible and even likely that the vacuum chamber can come up to air during the solenoid replacement procedure.

It is recommended that all valves be closed and the turbo pump(s) turned off before proceeding with the replacement of a solenoid.  Note that even though the AVC remote may indicate that a valve is closed, if the solenoid is defective the valve may not actually be closed.

In addition to turning off the turbo pumps, also turn off the card rack power, all electronics, the ion gauge and the ion pump control.

Finally, before proceeding with the replacement of a solenoid,  unplug or turn off the air to the back of the vacuum console.  Most valves will hold their state (closed) with no air supplied to the valve, but marginal valves may leak when the air is shut off.

Solenoid replacement procedure:

  1. Close all valves on the AVC
  2. Turn off the turbo pump(s)
  3. Turn off the ion gun, electron gun and X-ray source controllers
  4. Turn off the card rack power
  5. Turn off the DIGIII ion gauge control
  6. Turn off the Boostivac ion pump controller
  7. Turn off the AVC main power
  8. Turn off or unplug the air to the back of the console
  9. Unscrew the front panel AVC screws and slide out the AVC controller a little bit
  10. Unscrew the air manifold screws so that you can access the solenoid screws
  11. Unscrew the solenoid that you want to replace.  The V1 solenoid is a little bit higher than the other ones and it is located at one end of the air manifold.  Starting with the V1 solenoid, the order is V1, V2, V3, V4, V5 and V6.
  12. Cut the wires to the existing solenoid.  Make sure that you have enough length for when you reconnect the wires to the new solenoid.  Note that the V1 solenoid has 2 sets of wires, upper coil and lower coil.  Make sure that you keep the upper coil label on the wires so that you can connect the new solenoid upper coil wires to the correct set.
  13. Cut the wires on the new solenoid to length and strip the ends on the wires that went to the old solenoid and also on the ends of the new solenoid.
  14. Connect the wires together.  White to white, black to black (except for V2 which has a yellow wire).  You can use twist connects, in line crimp connectors or solder and heat shrink.
  15. Screw the new solenoid into the manifold.  Make sure that the black seals on the solenoid line up with the holes in the manifold.  Snug the solenoid down firmly but do not over tighten the screws as the manifold is aluminum and it is easy to strip the manifold.
  16. Use tie wraps to tidy up all the wires
  17. Reattach the air manifold to the AVC controller
  18. Make sure that all of the wires on the back of the AVC controller are still connected properly.
  19. Use the front panel screws to reattach the AVC controller to the console.
  20. Turn on the AVC controller main power.  All valves on the AVC remote should indicate closed.
  21. Reconnect the air to the back of the console.
  22. Next, see if the ion pump control starts and stays on in the Run mode.  If so, the system is still under vacuum.
  23. Turn on the DIGIII ion gauge control and press the I/T 3 button to turn on the ion gauge.

If the ion pumps started and the ion gauge turned on, you should be back in business and can turn on the turbo pump (s) and use the system as you would normally.

If the ion pump control does not start then the system is up to air or partiality up to air.   To test the condition of the vacuum inside the chamber, you can pump on the load lock until you have 5 bars and them manually close V3 and manually open and immediately close V1.  That will equalize the vacuum in the load lock with the chamber.  Now check how many bars you have on the AVC remote box.  If 3 or 4 bars then the chamber is only partial up to air and you can just open V3 and V1 and rough the chamber out for 10 to 15 minutes to get into the 10-6 Torr range and then start the ion pumps.Close V1 once the ion pumps start.

If you only have one bar, then the chamber is likely up to air and you should bring the chamber up all the way by back filling with Nitrogen and then pumping the chamber back down.   Those procedures are detailed at the bottom of this blog post.

If you have a leaking solenoid and need a replacement, RBD Instruments provides them and our part numbers are listed below.  Please contact us for a quotation.

RBD AVC Solenoid part numbers

Description RBD part number AVC solenoid designation
V1 24V Solenoid/Auto Valve Control T062-4E2RE V1
V2 24V Solenoid/Auto Valve Control T062E1-3-10-35RE V2
V3, V4, V5, V6 24V Solenoid/Auto Valve Control T062-4E1RE V3, V4, V5, V6

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


If you need to bring the vacuum chamber all the way up to air, here is the procedure –

System up to air procedure

This procedure will allow you to safely bring the 660 scanning auger system up to air for maintenance.

  1. Shut down all electron, ion and X-ray source power supplies.
  2. Turn off the card rack power
  3. If V4 is open, close it by pressing the Diff Pump Ion Gun button on the AVC remote.
  4. Pump the intro. If you need
  5. Turn off the DIGIII ion gauge.
  6. Turn off the Ion pump control and Boostivac control.
  7. Allow the system to cool for at least 30 minutes. (Or just a few minutes if the electron gun was not on.)
  8. Make sure that the turbo pump is on. If you have more than one turbo pump, they both need to be on.
  9. With the turbo pump on and the intro still being pumped, depress the Backfill Chamber button on the Auto Valve control located behind the vacuum console.
  10. You will hear a hissing sound as air is back-filled into the chamber.
  11. Slightly loosen the intro hatch cover so that when the system is pressurized it will open.
  12. Once the system is vented, turn OFF the turbo pump(s).

System Pump Down procedure

This procedure will allow you to safely pump down the system after being up to air for maintenance.

  1. Make sure that all flanges are secured (use new copper gaskets whenever removing and replacing optics on the vacuum chamber).
  2. With the turbo pump(s) off, depress the Rough Chamber button on the Auto Valve control located behind the vacuum console.
  3. Make sure that the intro hatch is closed.
  4. Turn on the turbo pump(s) by depressing the pumping unit button. You will hear the V2 valve close and the V3 and V4 valves open and the turbo(s) will begin to pump the system out.
  5. After about 20 minutes you should have 5 bars on the Auto Valve control remote. Once you have 5 bars, cycle each of the 4 titanium sublimation filaments for about 2 minutes each at 50 amps on the Boostivac control.
  6. Cycle each filament 2 times, with a few minutes of cool down time between filaments.
  7. After all 4 filaments have been out-gassed, make sure that you still have 5 bars on the Auto valve control remote and then turn on the DIGIII by turning the power switch to UHV and depressing the I/T 3 button.
  8. The DIGIII should indicate in the low 10-3 to mid 10-4 range. Allow the turbo to pump until the system pressure is in the low 10-4 to high 10-5 range, about 30 additional minutes.
  9. Cycle the #1 titanium sublimation filament for about 2 minutes at 50 amps. (Note: If a TSP filament can no longer get at least 45 amps, use the next filament).
  10. When the vacuum is in the low 10-5 range, start the ion pump control by turning the Mode switch to Start. Monitor the 10KV scale. The voltage should be increasing (maximum is about 5.5 kV), and the DIGIII should indicate that the vacuum is dropping into the 10-6 range.  (Note that the meter on the Boostivac does not always read, if not then just make sure that you are in the 10-6 range and dropping on the ion gauge).
  11. Once the DIGIII indicates the high 10-6 range, close the V1 valve by depressing the Rough Chamber button on the Auto Valve control located behind the vacuum console one more time. You will hear the V1, V3 and V4 valves close.
  12. On the Auto valve control remote, depress the Diff Pump Ion Gun button to differentially pump the ion gun.
  13. The system vacuum will continue to improve over the next few hours. Cycle the #1 titanium sublimation filament every 30 to 45 minutes to help the ion pumps pull the vacuum down.
  14. Once the base pressure is in the low 10-7 to mid 10-8 range, the system can be baked out to obtain the best possible base pressure.

Using RBD’s Portal

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Why should I register on the Portal instead of just sending an email with my question/request?

Many people would rather just send an email than register or create an account in a system. We understand this, so we’ll talk about the issue with emails a little later. For now, though, here are a few of the benefits of using the Portal:

  • When you register on the Portal, you have access to all of your tickets. This includes open and closed (resolved) tickets, as well as sales and service tickets. (Closing tickets is discussed later).
  • You have access to our Knowledgebase, which is discussed in more detail later.
  • You can search though your tickets, using any of the topic-specific words you have used in the ticket, to help find the relevant ticket more quickly. (Try doing this quickly when  you have many emails – maybe even thousands of emails – to go through! But again, more on emails later). It may be a little while between when you post and the search finds the ticket because there’s some data base indexing going on behind the scenes.

Do I need to register to use the Portal?

If you are asking for support assistance, yes, you need to register to use the Portal. If you have a sales-related question, no, you don’t need to register on the Portal. But, we encourage you to register for the reasons given elsewhere.

Why should I register on the Portal if I have only a sales-related question?

We have discovered that tickets that begin as sales questions frequently include technical discussions that contain information that is useful later, even if a purchase isn’t made right then. So, when you register, you have access to these discussions when you need them. And you can avoid the dreaded search through emails to find that wonderful technical tidbit you need.

Registering on the Portal also gives you access to our Knowledgebase (KB). Our KB contains articles that address many commonly asked questions about Physical Electronics products that we work on, trouble-shooting tips, and information about RBD Instruments products and services. Many of our customers have found it helpful to use our KB to determine which version of our products (like our 9103 or water vapor desorption products) will best meet their needs.

How do I do register?

Go to rbdinstruments.com and click on the Portal Register button as shown here:

Accessing the portal

Accessing the portal from RBD’s website

On the Registration screen, we ask you to enter the following information.

  • A Username. It can be anything that you want. Many people just use their first and last name, which makes it easy to remember.
  • A Password with at least 6 characters; it can’t match your username. You can even have the Portal remember you on your computer.
  • Your email address.
  • Your full name.
  • Your phone number.
  • Your time zone.

Then, just click “I’m not a robot” then click “Complete Registration” and you’re done!

What’s the issue with using emails?

Many of you have gotten comfortable sending emails to a specific staff member at RBD Instruments. But when that person is out of the office and is unable to check emails during the work day or maybe for a couple of days, your email could get stuck in their email list and it may be awhile before they get back to you. Enter the Portal.

When you create a ticket in the Portal, it goes into a General Queue, which is something that everyone at RBD Instruments is able to view. We can then, depending on what you’ve asked, help you quickly or assign your ticket to the appropriate expert. Now that you have created a ticket, all communications about your question are in one, easy-to-access spot. Continuity is maintained!

Please note that you should always create a new ticket to address a new topic or request. This keeps communications nice and clean. Have you ever written an email that has asked about a few different things but not all of them are answered in a single reply? And then you end up with multiple emails that are kind of about the same things but not completely? Using tickets in our Portal takes care of this: one ticket that contains a discrete, entire discussion.

Can I still send an email with my question?

The Portal is actually an email-based system. So, when you send an email to our sales or support department, your email is automatically sent to the Portal and a ticket is created there. We will be able to tell if it was a sales-related or a service-related question based on the email address you sent it to, and route it to the appropriate person in the applicable department.

When we reply, you get an email with a ticket number added to the subject of your email. If the subject of your email was “Question about your microCMA,” the subject of the reply will look something like “[123-1234DEV-456] Question about your microCMA”. The stuff in the brackets ([]) is your ticket number, which you need to keep. The ticket number is what our system uses to identify your ticket. When you reply to the email, keep the ticket number in the email’s subject to maintain continuity. If you change or delete the ticket number, the continuity and history of your discussion will be interrupted, which will make it more difficult to ensure that you get the answers you need. So, please don’t change or delete the ticket number.

How do I reply to a ticket?

Because the system is email-based, you can reply to the email you received or you can reply in the Portal itself.

When you reply to the email itself (and as mentioned above, please don’t change or delete the ticket number) this will ensure that everything already discussed in the ticket will stay in the ticket. If you change or delete the ticket number, it can get confusing and discussions will be interrupted. Yes, we’re saying this a lot, but it is really important!

You can avoid concerns about losing continuity by logging into the Portal and replying to a ticket in the Portal itself:

  1. Log into the portal.
  2. If you don’t see “My Tickets”, click the Tickets button.
  3. Find the ticket you want to reply to. You can enter the ticket number if you know it, or some text that you know was included in the ticket.
  4. When you are in your ticket and want to reply, scroll to the bottom of the screen. You should see something that looks like this:

    Portal Reply to Ticket

    Replying to a ticket and adding files on the portal

  5. Type your reply in the big text box.
  6. To attach a file, click the Choose File button to open the document storage location on your computer. Navigate to the file you want to attach and double-click it (or however you normally select a document). You can attach multiple documents.

How do I download documents that someone at RBD Instruments has attached to a ticket?

When you view RBD’s reply in the Portal, the ticket may look something like this:

Portal reply files

Accessing files attached to a reply on the portal

See the “Attachments” line at the bottom of this post? The light blue text to the right of the word Attachments is the name of the file (or files) that an RBD staff member has attached to the reply. Click on the file name to open the file.

How do I close a ticket? And, is a closed ticket permanently closed?

When the question that you asked has been resolved to your satisfaction, your ticket can be closed.

A ticket can be closed in a couple of ways:

  • As you can see in the graphic above, there is a check box that says “This ticket can be closed”. Simply click that box. We will receive a notification of your request and close the ticket.


  • You can reply to the ticket and ask us to close the ticket for you.

Let’s say that you later determine that you have more questions about the same issue. You don’t want to create a new ticket because you would lose the continuity of the earlier discussion. Instead, you can simply go back to the ticket in the Portal (which you can do if you have registered on the Portal) and reply to it again. The ticket is automatically reopened.


We are excited about how our new Portal helps us to help you! We encourage you to register if you have not already done so.