ReTarget - Re-manufacturing and re-purposing of high-quality sputter materials
- 01.12.2022 until 30.11.2024
Starting point / motivation
Physical vapor deposition of thin films for optical, electrical, medical, corrosion-resistant, or decorative applications generate very large amounts of waste due to inefficient material utilization of the sputtering targets. Due to the magnetic field distribution in conventional magnetron systems, in fact, a target typically reaches end-of-life and must be replaced when only 15-30 % of the material has been used. Considering that thin film deposition often involves precious and scarcely available metals (e.g., gold, silver, platinum, iridium, palladium, ruthenium), it follows that the generation of such a large amount of waste represents both environmental and economic constraints. Depending on the material type, used targets can be partially recycled through refining/casting, but the process is energy intensive and requires multiple and repetitive steps. The ReTarget project aims to significantly improve this issue and is based on three cornerstones: (1) used sputtering targets will be re-manufactured in a single process step to quickly reintroduce them into the supply chain; (2) alternatively, used sputtering targets at the end of their life will be re-purposed for the synthesis of high purity nanoparticles for medical, catalytic and electronic applications; (3) the magnetron sputtering process will be optimized to improve process efficiency while maintaining high coating quality.
Contents and goals
An innovative technology of rapid hot pressing will be developed and evaluated for direct reprocessing of used sputtering targets. On the other hand, intensification of material usage will be based on laser ablation in liquid environment under ultra-clean conditions, while the optimization of the sputtering process will be based on numerical simulations and their experimental validation. The goal of all methods is to open up new business strategies based on sustainable processes by producing high-value, market-relevant recycled materials that meet the requirements of industry standards in terms of purity, mechanical and optical properties.
Ultimately, the project aims through various approaches to promote the optimised use of materials, resources and technologies related to thin-film deposition as well as increased process sustainability. The results of the ReTarget project will contribute to reduce precious material waste, save energy, reduce recycling costs, and to open up new business opportunities by using end-of-life targets as raw material for the production of nanoparticles for high value products. This will thus lead to a net improvement of the entire value chain and a significant reduction of the environmental footprint.
- Dr. Laszlo Sajti
Partners of the project consortium
- Universität Innsbruck
- PhysTech Coating Technology GmbH