Functional plasma coatings

at low temperatures from atmospheric pressure to high vacuum

Coatings extend the structural properties of a component (e.g. the necessary mechanical stability) by those of the surfaces (e.g. for additional functions such as low-friction and wear protection, design and haptics, sensor technology, electr(on)ics, biocompatibility, etc.).

Today, numerous different processes are available for coating production. Plasma-assisted coating processes enable (highly) energetic layer deposition and utilize physical and chemical processes that occur when a solid surface interacts with plasmas (ionized gas consisting of neutral gas atoms, ions and mobile electrons). The coatings produced range in thickness from a few nanometers to several hundred micrometers and can be applied to metallic, ceramic and polymer base materials as well as composite materials. One of JOANNEUM RESEARCH's core competencies in this area is low-temperature coating, which makes it possible to produce the coatings at nearly room temperature.

Abscheidung von DLC-Schichten (Diamond-like Carbon) auf dreidimensionalen Substraten im Plasma.

Deposition of DLC (Diamond-like Carbon) layers on three-dimensional substrates in plasma, Credit: JOANNEUM RESEARCH

Service portfolio: From development to production 

Our services include development, characterization and production of functional coatings under atmospheric pressure (~1013 hPa/mbar), in fine vacuum (~0.1 Pa) and high vacuum (~10-5 Pa) and range from problem analyses, literature research and feasibility studies to prototype production and small series coating. Within the scope of technology transfer projects, we also support our partners in installing and establishing the coating processes in-house.


Atmospheric pressure plasma coating, Credit: JOANNEUM RESEARCH /Schwarzl


Atmospheric pressure plasma coating (APPD)

Atmospheric pressure plasma coating technologies (APPD), e.g. with plasma jets at JOANNEUM RESEARCH, do not require a vacuum chamber and are thus subject to hardly any size restrictions with regard to the components to be coated. Possible applications of APPD are the activation of polymer surfaces by oxygen or inert gas as well as the deposition of partly nanoparticle-doped metal, oxide and polymer coatings as wear protection, corrosion protection and barrier layers or also as biocompatible, antibacterial or biofunctional layers as well as electrical insulation layers or conductor paths and electrodes (see practical example 3D-printed airline emblem).

Low-pressure plasma

Low-pressure plasma offers very versatile possibilities for surface modification, e.g. fine cleaning of contaminated components, plasma activation of plastic parts, etching of PTFE or silicon and coating of plastic and metallic parts with PTFE-like layers (see practical example HMDSO anti-adhesive layer on structured nickel molding). The advantages of plasma coating are extremely thin layers in the nm range, constant processes suitable for series production thanks to complete automation, a large number of variants feasible, no temperature input, no solvents, very good gap mobility and suitable for piece and bulk materials.

Magnetron cathode sputtering

In the magnetron cathode sputtering process, atoms are released from a solid (target) by bombardment with high-energy ions (usually noble gases); the target atoms then deposit on a substrate and form a solid layer. Advantages are pore-free, high-purity layers, which, for example, have a corrosion-reducing or friction-reducing effect (see practical examples of guide tubes and plain bearing sleeves), deposition of insulators (e.g. aluminum oxide or boron nitride) and semiconductors, low heating of the substrate and relatively high deposition rates of up to 10s of nanometers per minute.

Coating Materials, Substrates  and Applications

The functional coatings, which are only a few nanometers to a few micrometers thick and can be applied to metals, ceramics, plastics and composites, are desirable for their biocompatible, antibacterial, anti-adhesive (non-stick), adhesive, sensory, catalytic, tribological, wear-resistant, decorative, optical, electronic, electrical, anti-corrosive, gas-permeable or impermeable, or dielectric characteristics according to the different applications in which they are used.

The following coating materials can be produced:

  • Metal coatings (Ti, Zr, Cr, Cu, Ag, Au, Mo, Wo, Pt, Al, Ni, Nb, Ta, Mg, alloys)
  • Hard coatings
    • Nitride layers  (TiN, TiAlN, CrN, ZrN, AlN, silicon nitride)
    • Carbide layers (TiC, CrC, ZrC, WC, SiC)
    • Oxide layers aluminium oxide, chromium oxide, titanium oxide, zirconium oxide, molybdenum oxide, silicon oxide)
  • Carbon layers (diamond-like carbon (DLC)​​​​​​​)
  • Ultra-thin layers of carbon (graphene layers)

In terms of layering and structuring, the following coatings (layer architectures) can be produced:

  • Monolayers (ultra-thin layers, nanolayers, thin films)
  • Multi-layer coatings
  • Gradient layers
  • Multi-component layers
  • Amorphous layers
  • Crystalline and nanocristalline layers
Here you can download our folder on the topic of functional plasma coatings.


  • 2004: Grand Prix and Gold Medal with Extinction for the invention „Implantable Pump for the PolPHAS (Polish Pneumatic Heart Assist System)“ of the 53th Word Exhibition for Innovation, Research and New Technology EUREKA 2004 in Brussels (main European fair for inventions)
  • 2004: Diploma of the Polish Minister of Science and Innovation for the most valuable Polish innovation in 2004


  • Polish patent P-371147; “Blood pump, especially pneumatic heart assist device”
  • Polish utility model W-115128; “Prototype of heart assist device POLVAD”
  • Offenlegungsschrift DE 10 2010 000 983 A1; “Plasma- bzw. ionengestütztes System zur Herstellung haftfester Schichten auf Fluorpolymeren.“