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Apparatus and Method for Fabricating Thin Film Devices using Heated Pocket Deposition

Colorado State University

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Technology Marketing Summary

Apparatus and method for depositing thin films onto a substrate using an advanced thermal deposition technique.


This innovation is consists of an apparatus and a method for depositing thin films onto a substrate using an advanced thermal deposition technique. The key to this technology is that is able to keep the sublimation surface area constant during the deposition process, thereby ensuring an even and consistent deposition as the source material is depleted. In addition, the configuration of the source block is such that radiative heat transfer between the substrate and the source material is minimized. The net result is a system that provides a temporally- and spatially-uniform thin film deposition rate onto the substrate.
This apparatus and method for manufacturing thin-films was developed specifically for fabrication of CdS/CdTe photovoltaic modules. However, this innovation should perform excellently for any application requiring physical vapor deposition via thermal sublimation of solid material in a vacuum environment. The primary advantage of this technology is superior control of deposition rate over long times and large areas, which results in highly uniform thin films suitable for a variety of commercial thin film applications.
This innovation is part of a large portfolio of thin film technologies specifically developed for CdTe photovoltaic devices but potentially applicable to a wide variety of thin film technologies. Thin film coated substrates are ubiquitous in today's society and have been used for numerous aspects of consumer electronics (from integrated circuit fabrication to cell phone, computer and television display coatings), optics (e.g., coating glass), microparticle fabrication, photovoltaic fabrication, and packaging (e.g., aluminum coating on plastic for potato chip bags).


Constant surface area of source material ensures consistent deposition rate as material depletes
Consistent and uniform deposition ensures high quality thin film

Applications and Industries

Specifically designed for CdTe photovoltaic modules
Applicable for any material that can be thermally deposited under vacuum

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 8,557,045
Apparatus and method for fabricating photovoltaic modules using heated pocket deposition in a vacuum
An apparatus and method for manufacturing thin-film CdS/CdTe photovoltaic modules in a vacuum environment. The apparatus deposits CdS and CdTe layers onto a substrate using heated pocket deposition, a form of physical vapor deposition (PVD) in which a material thermally sublimes from a thermal sublimation source block and is deposited onto a substrate. The thermal sublimation source block includes a pocket having a lower surface into which an array of holes is formed to house plugs of deposition material. Upon heating, deposition material sublimes from a surface of each plug of deposition material, and the surface of each plug regresses into its corresponding hole while maintaining a constant surface area. The sublimation surface area of deposition material across the pocket remains substantially constant during an extended deposition process, and the deposition material is substantially free of undesired thermal radiation from the substrate. As such, the thermal sublimation source block provides a temporally- and spatially-uniform thin film deposition rate across the lower surface of the substrate.
Technology Status
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To: Jeremy Nelson<>