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Ion implantation is a materials engineering process by which ions of a material are accelerated in an electrical field and impacted into a solid. This process is used to change the physical, chemical, or electrical properties of the solid. Ion implantation is used in semiconductor device fabrication and in metal finishing, as well as various applications in materials science research. The ions alter the elemental composition of the target (if the ions differ in composition from the target), stopping in the target and staying there. They also cause many chemical and physical changes in the target by transferring their energy and momentum to the electrons and atomic nuclei of the target material. This causes a structural change, in that the crystal structure of the target can be damaged or even destroyed by the energetic collision cascades. Because the ions have masses comparable to those of the target atoms, they knock the target atoms out of place more than electron beams do. If the ion energy is sufficiently high (usually tens of MeV) to overcome the coulomb barrier, there can even be a small amount of nuclear transmutation.
Ion implantation equipment typically consists of an ion source, where ions of the desired element are produced, an accelerator, where the ions are electrostatically accelerated to a high energy, and a target chamber, where the ions impinge on a target, which is the material to be implanted. Thus ion implantation is a special case of particle radiation. Each ion is typically a single atom or molecule, and thus the actual amount of material implanted in the target is the integral over time of the ion current. This amount is called the dose. The currents supplied by implanters are typically small (microamperes), and thus the dose which can be implanted in a reasonable amount of time is small. Therefore, ion implantation finds application in cases where the amount of chemical change required is small.
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