A multi-technique approach to study the microstructural properties of tin-based transparent conductive oxides

Transparent conductive oxides (TCOs) are semiconductor-like materials that exhibit high electrical conductivity and high optical transparency combined. They are adopted in various applications ranging from gas sensors, to electrochromic windows, to photovoltaic cells. Indium-based TCOs represent the industry standard. Nevertheless, indium is among the less abundant elements in the earth crust and forecasts based on its current consumption envisage an urgent need to replace it. Tin-based TCOs are a promising alternative, since their opto- electronic characteristics mimic the ones of indium-based materials. This thesis aims to investigate the link between optoelectronic and microstructural properties of tin dioxide and zinc tin oxide (ZTO) with a composition Zn0.05Sn0.30O0.65 and their stability when submitted to thermal treatments. Indeed, lots of practi- cal applications require the TCO to operate in high temperature conditions. To conduct this study, a combination of analytical techniques, such as transmission electron microscopy (TEM), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), X- ray diffraction (XRD), electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) was employed. Amorphous SnO2 and ZTO were deposited by RF sputtering and annealed up to 1050°C in different atmospheres. The influence of annealing temperature and atmosphere were decoupled and led us to an in-depth comprehension of the mechanisms governing the optoelectronic properties of both materials. When annealed in air, between room temperature and 300°C, ZTO exhibits increased mobility and carrier concentration with respect to the as-deposited state. This increase, investigated with DSC, was ascribed to a structural relaxation that allows point defects to release electrons in conduction band. Between 300°C and 500°C atmospheric oxygen passivates oxygen vacancies, drastically decreasing the carrier concentration and therefore causing a large drop of the conductivity. EPR experiments allowed to ascribe the drop in conductivity to the decrease of carrier concentration, which occurs slightly before the phase change. At 570°C (and 930°C for the case of vacuum annealing) the phase change occurs and the ZTO crystallizes in the rutile form of SnO2. The material becomes completely insulating. When the temperature is increased to 1050°C, evaporation of zinc is observed. In order to improve the electrical conductivity of ZTO at high temperature, a doping strategy was implemented starting from DFT calculations conducted by a partner group, who screened among the entire periodic table, which elements are the best candidates to act as n-dopants for ZTO. Bromine and iodine were retained, since they were found to be the most energetically favorable to become substitutional defects for a tin site. An exploratory doping route is therefore presented and the treated samples analyzed with TEM, EDX and UV-VIS-IR spectroscopy. Finally, the structural properties of an indium-based TCO (zirconium-doped indium oxide) were investigated and used as a benchmark to propose a crystallization model for the tin-based, as well as the indium-based materials. The influence of pa- rameters such as the material thickness, annealing atmosphere and temperature and deposition pressure are discussed for both materials.

Hessler-Wyser, Aïcha
Hébert, Cécile
Lausanne, EPFL

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 Record created 2019-05-24, last modified 2020-04-20

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