Here, a fluid precursor undergoes a chemical change at a solid surface, leaving a solid layer. An everyday example is the formation of soot on a cool object when it is placed inside a flame. Since the fluid surrounds the solid object, deposition happens on every surface, with little regard to direction; thin films from chemical deposition techniques tend to be conformal, rather than directional.
Chemical deposition is further categorized by the phase of the precursor:
Plating relies on liquid precursors, often a solution of water with a salt of the metal to be deposited. Some plating processes are driven entirely by reagents in the solution (usually for noble metals), but by far the most commercially important process is electroplating. It was not commonly used in semiconductor processing for many years, but has seen a resurgence with more widespread use of chemical-mechanical polishing techniques.
Chemical solution deposition (CSD) or Chemical bath deposition (CBD) uses a liquid precursor, usually a solution of organometallic powders dissolved in an organic solvent. This is a relatively inexpensive, simple thin film process that is able to produce stoichiometrically accurate crystalline phases. This technique is also known as the sol-gel method because the 'sol' (or solution) gradually evolves towards the formation of a gel-like diphasic system.
Spin coating or spin casting, uses a liquid precursor, or sol-gel precursor deposited onto a smooth, flat substrate which is subsequently spun at a high velocity to centrifugally spread the solution over the substrate. The speed at which the solution is spun and the viscosity of the sol determine the ultimate thickness of the deposited film. Repeated depositions can be carried out to increase the thickness of films as desired. Thermal treatment is often carried out in order to crystallize the amorphous spin coated film. Such crystalline films can exhibit certain preferred orientations after crystallization on single crystal substrates.
Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) generally uses a gas-phase precursor, often a halide or hydride of the element to be deposited. In the case of MOCVD, an organometallic gas is used. Commercial techniques often use very low pressures of precursor gas.
Plasma enhanced CVD (PECVD) uses an ionized vapor, or plasma, as a precursor. Unlike the soot example above, commercial PECVD relies on electromagnetic means (electric current, microwave excitation), rather than a chemical reaction, to produce a plasma.
Atomic layer deposition (ALD) uses gaseous precursor to deposit conformal thin films one layer at a time. The process is split up into two half reactions, run in sequence and repeated for each layer, in order to ensure total layer saturation before beginning the next layer. Therefore, one reactant is deposited first, and then the second reactant is deposited, during which a chemical reaction occurs on the substrate, forming the desired composition. As a result of the stepwise, the process is slower than CVD, however it can be run at low temperatures, unlike CVD.