Plasma Technologies - Lenka Zajíčková
Plasma Technologies - Lenka Zajíčková


Lenka Zajíčková, Ph.D. Lenka Zajíčková, Ph.D.
Research Group Leader Senior

Research areas

  • Plasma processing of materials, plasma diagnostics, process monitoring and simulations
  • Atmospheric pressure plasma sources
  • Functional plasma polymer coatings
  • Inorganic and hybrid (organic/inorganic) coatings and nanomaterials
  • Carbon nanostructured materials and their functionalization
  • Development of the scanning probe microscopy (SPM) data analysis software, Gwyddion

Main objectives

  • Understanding low pressure plasma processes and interaction of plasma with surfaces for improved tunability and selectivity of fabrication, especially in plasma polymerization and plasma-based atomic layer processes
  • Development of atmospheric pressure plasma sources and their application for plasma surface modification
  • Synthesis, functionalization and application of nanomaterials (carbon nanotubes or nanowalls, graphene, metal-based nanoparticles)
  • Preparation of novel materials and surfaces for sensors, tissue engineering and other bioapplications
  • Complex understanding of chemical structure, morphology, topography and functional (optical, mechanical, biomedical) properties of thin films, surfaces and nanostructures with the help of advanced methods for material characterization and ab initio calculations
  • Development of methodology and standardization of the scanning probe microscopy (SPM) data analysis including the open-source software, Gwyddion, that frees scientists from depending on often arbitrary and always difficult to verify collections of data analysis tools provided by the SPM software of individual manufacturers

Content of research

Check the list of all our publications at and download full text files after loging on as guest.

The research group operates on the premises of Department Physiscal Electronics and CEITEC Core Facilities.

Plasma processing of materials, plasma diagnostics, process monitoring and simulations

We develop and investigate low and atmospheric pressure plasma processing of materials. The understanding of the processes and interaction of plasma with surfaces is achieved by plasma diagnostics, process monitoring and simulations of related phenomena (electromagnetic field, gas flow, heat transport, plasma).

  • Numerical simulation

    In our numerical models, we focus exclusively on plasma devices which have direct material or biomedical applications. We simulate plasma in close-to-real geometries in relevant gas mixtures. This does, sometimes, pose a big challenge because the coupling of the plasma, the gas dynamics and mixing and the electromagnetic field is very strong. The numerical modelling is, always, complemented with plasma diagnostics in order to verify the validity of our models. The most interesting models that we have developed include:
    • Coupled model of gas dynamics and the electromagnetic field in a microwave plasma torch operating at the atmospheric pressure in an inhomogeneous argon/hydrogen mixture.
    • Gas dynamics model of gas flow and heat transfer in a radio-frequency jet for bioapplications.
    • A model of gas dynamics and precursor consumption in a dielectric barrier discharge with the aim of gas supply optimization.
    • Currently, our main focus lies on self-consistent modelling of atmospheric discharges with bioapplications.
  • Plasma diagnostics

    Knowing the conditions in the plasma discharges, especially the gas and electron temperatures and the electron density) is absolutely crucial for transferring our plasma processes to different setups or for upscaling them. In addition, measurements of plasma properties are very useful for validation of the numerical models developed in our group. So far, we have employed the following techniques to characterize our discharges:
    • Optical emission spectroscopy for electron denisty and gastemperature measurements.
    • Thomson scattering for electron density and temperature measurements and Rayleigh scattering for gas temperature measurements (in collaboration with Technische UniversiteitEindhoven).
    • Laser schlieren deflectometry for gas temperature measurement.





  • Capacitively coupled radio frequency (RF) discharges
  • Cold RF plasma jet
  • Dielectric barrier discharges (DBD)
  • Microwave plasma torch

    Microwave plasma torch is atmospheric pressure device that provides high temperature, electron and energy density. In applications it is most suitable for conversion and synthesizing processes where it can achieve full breakdown of the precursor molecules to active radicals. We have successfully utilized this device for synthesis of nanoparticles and nanotubes and also studied by diagnostic methods and modeling.
  • Glide arc

    The glide arc or gliding arc is a type of a plasma discharge, where the arc channel is moving along slanted electrodes. When external forces (buoyancy, gas flow) act on the plasma channel, it is pushed from this optimal position. The discharge channel starts to glide and consecutively changes its properties from the ones nearly identical to a standard arc discharge at short channel lengths to a non-equilibrium plasma at longer channels. The non-equilibrium stage begins when the length of the plasma column exceeds its critical value and heat losses from the plasma begin to exceed the energy supplied by source. The maximum length of the glide arc channel is related to the supplied voltage. After the quenching of one discharge at maximum elongation a new discharge appears at minimal electrode distance and the whole evolution is repeated. Advantageous properties of the glide arc plasma can be used for various applications such as decontamination, methane transformation or CO2 dissociation. Reference: Hypergravity effects on glide arc plasma

Functional plasma polymer coatings

The plasma (co)polymerization is applied for a surface modification by coatings containing (bio)active groups (carboxyls, amines, ...). We develop plasmachemical processes that utilize non-toxic monomers. The coatings can be applied to different substrates because the processes take places at temperatures closed to the room temperature. The coatings are tested in sensors, for immobilization of biomolecules and for the modification of biodegradable electrospun polymer nanofibers aiming at the applications in tissue engineering.

  • Plasma polymerization of cyclopropylamine
  • Preparation of immunosensor with the help of plasma polymerization
  • Modification of polycaprolactone electrospun nanofibers

Hard and hybrid (organic/inorganic) coatings

Organic/inorganic organosilicon coatings with tuned hybrid structure are deposited by PECVD from organosilicon monomers (e.g. hexamethyldisiloxane - HMDSO) in low pressure RF discharges, atmospheric pressure DBD and RF plasma jet. We develop and investigate hard coatings based on diamond like carbon (DLC) prepared by low pressure PECVD.

  • Organosilicon protective films prepared by low pressure PECVD
  • Organosilicon films prepared in atmospheric pressure discharges
  • SiOx and nitrogen doped DLC films
  • Protective multilayered coatings based on DLC

    Multilayer amorphous diamond-like carbon films with graded silicon and oxygen content exhibiting hardness in the range from 16 to 24 GPa were deposited using low pressure PECVD. Gradients in elastic properties of a coating can provide substantial improvements in the resistance to indentation. The variation in elastic properties of the thin film were achieved by composition change, simply adjusting the deposition conditions during the film growth. The films were optimised for deposition on steel substrates. To evaluate the impact resistance of graded amorphous carbon films in dynamic loading wear applications an impact test has been used. During testing the specimen was cyclically loaded by tungsten carbide ball that impacts against the coating surface. The results demonstrate the usability of these coatings in dynamic load and enables the optimization of the coating/substrate system design for a particular use. The films with optimum structure exhibited very good resistance against delamination, high fracture toughness and low friction coefficient. The principal new finding concerns the fracture toughness of the film and the interfacial adhesion. Upon impact testing the films remain attached to the substrate, even at impact loads exceeding 200 N. The films can sustain compression strains without debonding or spalling.

    Reference: V. BURŠÍKOVÁ, J. SOBOTA, T. FOŘT, J. GROSSMAN, A. STOICA, J. BURŠÍK, P. KLAPETEK, V. PEŘINA. Optimisation of mechanical properties of plasma deposited graded multilayer diamond-like carbon coatings. JOURNAL OF OPTOELECTRONICS AND ADVANCED MATERIALS, Vol. 10, No. 12, December 2008, p. 3229 - 3232.

Metal oxide coatings and nanomaterials

Very thin films of TiO2, HfO2 and other oxides are prepared by atomic layer deposition (ALD) or plasma ALD. Additionally, we investigate the structure of TiO2-based ternary oxides prepared by PECVD. In MW torch, a fast synthesis of iron oxide (maghemite, hematite) nanoparticles and nanostructured coatings can be tuned to desired applications including in-flight coating of nanoparticles for a core-shell structure.

  • ALD and plasma ALD of oxides
  • Ab-initio calculations of structure and optical properties of TiO2-based ternary oxides and HfO2

Carbon nanostructured materials and their functionalization

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene nanowalls are synthesized directly on the functional devices, e.g. sensors, using the MW plasma torch or by CVD using iron catalytic nanoparticles synthesized in the torch. Graphene is grown on copper foils by CVD. The CNTs or graphene are functionalized by plasmachemical method for enhanced sensing properties, imobilization of biomolecules, better dispersion in liquids (e.g. for spraying) or improved dispersion and covalent bonding in polymer matrixes (for composites). Plasmachemical modified carbon nanomaterials can find applications in smart textiles, multifunctional polymer composites, (bio)sensors, supercapacitors, batteries etc.

  • Growth of CNTs in MW torch
  • Polyurethane composites filled by plasma-functionalized CNTs
  • Field emission pressure sensor based on CNTs grown in MW torch
  • Modifications of working electrodes of electrochemical sensors using CNTs and plasma treatment
  • Gas sensors

    Enhanced adsorption properties of carbon nanomaterials make it possible to create novel gas sensors with improved performance. High surface area of porous CNTs and carbon nanofibers increase the response of the gas sensors. Unique and fast plasma-assisted technique of making of the gas sensors based on carbon nanomaterials (carbon nanotubes, carbon nanofibers, graphene etc.) was created to investigate and produce high quality devices. Advantages of the gas sensors based on carbon nanomaterials:
    • Excellent sensing properties allow to use the sensors at room temperature;
    • Low detection limit (e.g. lower than 10 ppm);
    • Possibility to engineer the sensing properties precisely;
    • Possibility to use the gas sensors for a wide range of industrial and toxic gases or gas mixtures (CO, CO2, CxHy, NH3, NO2 etc.).

Development of methods for the characterization of optical properties of materials

The optical characterization of thin films and surfaces is performed by the combination of ellipsometric and spectrophotometric measurements in the wide spectral range. We develop own software (newAD) for the solution of advanced and complex problems. The characterization provides information not only about the thickness and optical properties (refractive index and extinction coefficient) but also about non-uniformity, inhomogeneity, existence of interlayers, roughness, changes in chemical composition and electronic band structure.

Development of methods for the characterization of mechanical properties of materials

The advanced studies of mechanical properties of thin films and nanomaterials is carried out by instrumented micro/nanoindentation and nanoscratch tests. The complex analysis of relation between nanoindentation response and material structure is performed for thin films, multilayered and nanocomposite materials. Recently, the measurement in liquids for the samples with potential bioapplications and the measurements at the temperatures up to 800 oC are investigated.

  • Hysitron 950 TI

     The Hysitron TI 950 TriboIndenter is a nanomechanical test instrument with a high degree of sensitivity and excellent performance. Its Advanced Control Module improves the precision of feedback-controlled nanomechanical testing, provides dual head testing capability for nano/micro scale connectivity, and offers very good noise floor performance. Several different nanomechanical testing techniques are currently possible, making the TI 950 nano-indenter system an effective nanomechanical characterization tool for a wide range of applications.

    Hysitron's TI 950 TriboIndenter Features:
    • Quasistatic nanoindentation – Measure Young’s modulus, hardness, fracture toughness and other mechanical properties via nanoindentation.
    • Scratch testing – Quantify scratch resistance, critical delamination forces, and friction coefficients with simultaneous normal and lateral force and displacement monitoring.
    • Top-down optics – High- resolution, color CCD camera for individual structure identification and coarse test positioning.
    • SPM imaging – In-situ imaging using the indenter tip provides nanometer precision test positioning and surface topography information
    • Dual head testing capability for true nano/micro scale connectivity
    • Active vibration isolation systemproviding environmental separation

      Available modules:
    • nanoDMA – Investigate time-dependent properties of materials using a dynamic testing technique designed specifically for polymers and biomaterials
    • Modulus Mapping – Obtain quantitative maps of the storage and loss stiffness and moduli from a single SPM scan 3D OmniProbe – Provides forces up to 10 N and scratch lengths up to 150 mm for depth- sensing micro-indentation and tribological studies
    • nanoECR – Conductive nanoindentation system capable of providing simultaneaous in-situ electrical and mechanical measurements for investigating material deformation and stress induced transformation behavior
    • Thermal control – Heating/cooling stages can be added for the investigation of mechanical properties at non-ambient temperatures
    • Vacuum stage – Wafer mounting system that eliminates necessity of gluing or cutting wafers prior to testing
    • Long probes that allow to safely investigate the mechanical properties of samples imersed in water.

    Photo during testing of a sample immersed in water.

Development of the scanning probe microscopy (SPM) data analysis software, Gwyddion

The open source software Gwyddion is developed in close collaboration with the CEITEC RG Development of Methods for Analysis and Measuring and a large number of participants from other institutions throughout the world. It has become a standard software in the field and is used by thousands of scientists.

  • Design and implementgation of Gwyddion

    Gwyddion was designed as a cross-platform and extensible.  It consits of three main parts: libraries providing core data processing routines, GUI elements and utility functions; modules that provide specific data processing and file functions; and a small and simple application itself that primarily serves as a glue connecting everything else together.
    Notable features of Gwyddion include:

    • Support for more than 100 SPM file formats.
    • Processing of data under arbitrarily shaped masks.
    • Calibration and metrology support.
    • Single point spectra and volume data support.
    • Generation of artificial surfaces and measurement simulation.
    • Python scripting.
      Reference: Gwyddion: an open-source software for SPM data analysis
      For further information contact David Nečas      mail:
  • Data analysis methods in SPM

    The development of Gwyddion is naturaly connected to development of data processing methods in SPM. Examples includes methods for the analysis of nanoparticles under non-ideal conditions or statistical characterisation of roughness in irregular rough regions. Quantitative analysis of SPM data should also include uncertainties of the obtained parameters. This requires the characterisation of measurement errors in SPM, both systematic and random, and their propagation through data processing calculations. 

    For quantitative analysis of data acquired using novel SPM scanning modes, such as fast point spectroscopy and imaging, it is crucial to have available independent data processing methods that can be applied off-line (after acquisition) and consistently to data measured using different instruments. Thanks to the open-source nature of Gwyddion, all algorithms implemented there can be examined and verified at the source code level, which is key for comparablity of results and further progress to standardisation in nanometrology.


All news