Journal article

Texture change through film thickness and off-axis accommodation of (002) planes

We present our recent experimental results on the formation of off-axis texture and crystallographic tilting of crystallites that take place in thin film of transition metal nitrides. For this purpose, the microstructural development of TiAlN film was studied, specially the change in texture with film thickness. Fiber texture was measured using theta-2 theta and pole figure X-ray diffraction (XRD), while scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) were used to observe the microstructure and changes in texture with thickness. The sin(2)psi method was applied to determine the stresses on (1 1 1) and (0 0 2) plane. With deposition parameters chosen, the growth texture mechanism is discussed in three different stages of film growth. Surface energy minimization at low thickness leads to the development of (0 0 2) orientation. On the other hand, the competitive growth promotes the growth of (1 1 1) planes parallel to film surface at higher thickness. However, contrary to the prediction of growth models, the (0 0 2) grains are not completely overlapped by (1 1 1) grains at higher thickness. Rather the (0 0 2) grains still constitute the surface, but are tilted away from the substrate normal showing substantial in-plane alignment to allow the (1 1 1) planes remain parallel to film surface. Intrinsic stress along (1 1 1) and (0 0 2) shows a strong dependence with preferred orientation. The stress level in (0 0 2) grains which was compressive at low thickness changes to tensile at higher thickness. This change in the nature of stress allows the (0 0 2) planes to tilt away in order to promote the growth of (111) parallel to film normal and to minimize the overall energy of system due to high compressive stress stored in the (1 1 1) grains. The change in surface morphology with thickness was observed using SEM. An increase in surface roughness with film thickness was observed which indicates the development of (1 1 1) texture parallel to film surface. TEM observations support the XRD results regarding texture change. Film hardness was measured by nanoindentation and a correlation between (1 1 1) texture, stress and hardness is obtained. The results indicate that texture development is a complex interplay between thermodynamic and kinetic forces. An attempt is made to understand this phenomenon of off-axis accommodation of (0 0 2) at higher thicknesses, which is a new result not reported previously. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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