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The first stage in the sputtering process is the ionisation of a gas (typically Argon).
An electric field is applied to accelerate the electrons.
Collisions may release another electron which lead to further collisions.
This is known as a Townsend Avalanche.
Relative to the fast-moving electrons, the gas atoms are approximately stationary
Once the gas is ionised, it is accelerated towards the target.
Click on the target to aim and fire the sputtering gas.
Note the collision cascade which occurs within the target.
The sputtered atoms from the target then have to go through the gaseous surroundings in order for them to reach the substrate.
This leads to scattering of these atoms due to collisions with the inert background gas.
Click on the shadowed area to aim and fire the sputtered atom.