Journal article

Direct Imaging of Dopant Distribution in Polycrystalline ZnO Films

Two fundamental requirements of transparent conductive oxides are high conductivity and low optical absorptance, properties strongly dependent on the free-carrier concentration of the film. The free carrier concentration is usually-tuned by the addition of dopant atoms; which are commonly assumed to be uniformly distributed in the films or partially segregated at grain boundaries. Here, the combination of secondary ion mass spectroscopy at the nanometric scale (NanoSIMS) and Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) allows direct imaging of boron-dopant distribution in polycrystalline zinc oxide (ZnO) films. This work demonstrates that the boron atoms have a bimodal spatial distribution within each grain of the ZnO films. NanoSIMS analysis shows that boron atoms are preferentially incorporated into one of the two sides of each ZnO grain. KPFM measurements confirm that boron atoms are electrically active, locally increasing the free-carrier concentration" in the film. The proposed cause of this nonuniform dopant EF conduction distribution is the different sticking coefficient of Zn adatoms on the two distinct surface terminations of the ZnO grains. The higher sticking coefficient of Zn on the c+ surface restricts the boron incorporation on this side of the grains, resulting in preferential boron incorporation on the c- side and causing the bimodal distribution.


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