Modulation of argon pressure as an option to control transmittance and resistivity of ZnO:Al films deposited by DC magnetron sputtering: on the dark yellow films at 10-7 Torr base pressures

Jorge Alberto García Valenzuela, Dagoberto Cabrera-German, Marcos Cota-Leal, Guillermo Suárez-Campos, Miguel Martínez-Gil, Frank Romo-García, Martha Raquel Baez-Gaxiola, Mérida Sotelo-Lerma, Jordi Andreu, Joan Bertomeu


In a previous paper, we reported that thin films of ZnO:Al [aluminum-zinc oxide (AZO)] deposited after achieving a very low base pressure [from 4.0×10–7 Torr (5.6×10–5 Pa) to 5.7×10–7 Torr (7.6×10–5 Pa)] result dark yellow in color and are resistive. These are undesirable characteristics for the application of AZO thin films as front electrodes in solar cells. However, given the increasingly tendency in the acquisition of equipment that allow us to reach excellent vacuum levels, it is necessary to find the deposition conditions that lead to an improving of transmittance without greatly impacting the electrical properties of materials deposited after achieving these levels of vacuum. In this way, the present work is focused on AZO thin films deposited after achieving a very low base pressure value: 4.2×10–7 Torr (5.6×10–5 Pa). For this, we studied the effect of the variation of the oxygen volume percent in the argon/oxygen mixture (by maintaining the deposition pressure constant) and the effect of deposition pressure with only argon gas on the main properties of AZO thin films. The depositions were done at room temperature on glass substrates by direct-current magnetron sputtering with a power of 120 W (corresponding to a power density of 2.63 W/cm2). As results, we found that the variation of deposition pressure with only argon gas is a good option for the control of optical and electrical properties, since the addition of oxygen, although improves transmittance, greatly impacts on the electrical properties. Furthermore, an interesting correlation was found between the optical and electrical properties and the chemical composition of the AZO films, the latter depending on the argon pressure (for this, a careful X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis was performed). Also, the inverse relationship between crystallinity and deposition rate was confirmed, in which deposition rate inversely depends on argon pressure.


Zinc oxide; transparent conductive oxide; sputter deposition; optical transmittance; electrical resistivity; argon pressure; base pressure.

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Revista Mexicana de Física

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