Evaporation is a common method of thin film deposition. The source material is evaporated in a vacuum. The vacuum allows vapor particles to travel directly to the target object (substrate), where they condense back to a solid state. Evaporation is used in microfabrication, and to make macro-scale products such as metallized plastic film.
Evaporation involves two basic processes: a hot source material evaporates and condenses on the substrate. It resembles the familiar process by which liquid water appears on the lid of a boiling pot. However, the gaseous environment and heat source are different.
Evaporation takes place in a vacuum, i.e. vapors other than the source material are almost entirely removed before the process begins. In high vacuum (with a long mean free path), evaporated particles can travel directly to the deposition target without colliding with the background gas. (By contrast, in the boiling pot example, the water vapor pushes the air out of the pot before it can reach the lid.) At a typical pressure of 10-4 Pa, an 0.4-nm particle has a mean free path of 60 m. Hot objects in the evaporation chamber, such as heating filaments, produce unwanted vapors that limit the quality of the vacuum.
Evaporated atoms that collide with foreign particles may react with them; for instance, if aluminium is deposited in the presence of oxygen, it will form aluminium oxide.