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Chemical Stability of Titania and Alumina Thin Films Formed by Atomic Layer Deposition

Correa, Gabriela C., Bao, Bo, Strandwitz, Nicholas C.
ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2015 v.7 no.27 pp. 14816-14821
X-ray diffraction, air, aluminum oxide, annealing, atomic force microscopy, heat treatment, hydrochloric acid, light microscopy, mercury, nitric acid, potassium chloride, potassium hydroxide, scanning electron microscopy, spectroscopy, sulfuric acid, titanium dioxide
Thin films formed by atomic layer deposition (ALD) are being examined for a variety of chemical protection and diffusion barrier applications, yet their stability in various fluid environments is not well characterized. The chemical stability of titania and alumina thin films in air, 18 MΩ water, 1 M KCl, 1 M HNO₃, 1 M H₂SO₄, 1 M HCl, 1 M KOH, and mercury was studied. Films were deposited at 150 °C using trimethylaluminum–H₂O and tetrakis(dimethylamido)titanium–H₂O chemistries for alumina and titania, respectively. A subset of samples were heated to 450 and 900 °C in inert atmosphere. Films were examined using spectroscopic ellipsometry, atomic force microscopy, optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and X-ray diffraction. Notably, alumina samples were found to be unstable in pure water, acid, and basic environments in the as-synthesized state and after 450 °C thermal treatment. In pure water, a dissolution–precipitation mechanism is hypothesized to cause surface roughening. The stability of alumina films was greatly enhanced after annealing at 900 °C in acidic and basic solutions. Titania films were found to be stable in acid after annealing at or above 450 °C. All films showed a composition-independent increase in measured thickness when immersed in mercury. These results provide stability-processing relationships that are important for controlled etching and protective barrier layers.