An investigation of the performance and stability of zinc oxide thin-film transistors and the role of high-k dielectrics.
Transparent oxide semiconducting films have continued to receive considerable attention, from a fundamental and application-based point of view, primarily because of their useful fundamental properties. Of particular interest is zinc oxide (ZnO), an n-type semiconductor that exhibits excellent optical, electrical, catalytic and gas-sensing properties, and has many applications in various fields. In this work, thin film transistor (TFT) arrays based on ZnO have been prepared by reactive radio frequency (RF) magnetron sputtering. Prior to the TFT fabrication, ZnO layers were sputtered on to glass and silicon substrates, and the deposition parameters optimised for electrical resistivities suitable for TFT applications. The sputtering process was carried out at room temperature with no intentional heating. The aim of this work is to prepare ZnO thin films with stable semiconducting electrical properties to be used as the active channel in TFTs; and to understand the role of intrinsic point defects in device performance and stability. The effect of oxygen (O2) adsorption on TFT device characteristics is also investigated. The structural quality of the material (defect type and concentration), electrical and optical properties (transmission/absorption) of semiconductor materials are usually closely correlated. Using the Vienna ab-initio simulation package (VASP), it is predicted that O2 adsorption may influence film transport properties only within a few atomic layers beneath the adsorption site. These findings were exploited to deposit thin films that are relatively stable in atmospheric ambient with improved TFT applications. TFTs incorporating the optimised layer were fabricated and demonstrated very impressive performance metrics, with effective channel mobilities as high as 30 cm2/V-1s-1, on-off current ratios of 107 and sub-threshold slopes of 0.9 – 3.2 V/dec. These were found to be dependent on film thickness (~15 – 60 nm) and the underlying dielectric (silicon dioxide (SiO2), gadolinium oxide (Gd2O3), yttrium oxide (Y2O3) and hafnium oxide (HfO2)). In this work, prior to sputtering the ZnO layer (using a ZnO target of 99.999 % purity), the sputtering chamber was evacuated to a base pressure ~4 x 10-6 Torr. Oxygen (O2) and argon (Ar) gas (with O2/Ar ratio of varying proportions) were then pumped into the chamber and the deposition process optimised by varying the RF power between 25 and 500 W and the O2/Ar ratio between 0.010 to 0.375. A two-level factorial design technique was implemented to test specific parameter combinations (i.e. RF power and O2/Ar ratio) and then statistical analysis was utilised to map out the responses. The ZnO films were sputtered on glass and silicon substrates for transparency and resistivity measurements, and TFT fabrication respectively. For TFT device fabrication, ZnO films were deposited onto thermally-grown silicon dioxide (SiO2) or a high-k dielectric layer (HfO2, Gd2O3 and Y2O3) deposited by a metal-organic chemical deposition (MOCVD) process. Also, by using ab initio simulation as implemented in the “Vienna ab initio simulation package (VASP)”, the role of oxygen adsorption on the electrical stability of ZnO thin film is also investigated. The results indicate that O2 adsorption on ZnO layers could modify both the electronic density of states in the vicinity of the Fermi level and the band gap of the film. This study is complemented by studying the effects of low temperature annealing in air on the properties of ZnO films. It is speculated that O2 adsorption/desorption at low temperatures (150 – 350 0C) induces variations in the electrical resistance, band gap and Urbach energy of the film, consistent with the trends predicted from DFT results.
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