Abstract— Studies during the last ten years have demonstrated that it is difficult to deposit pure silicon nitride by Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) without oxygen contamination even using a pure nitrogen atmosphere and a pure silicon target. The difference in the reactivity of nitrogen and oxygen means that there is always a certain amount of oxidation during the film growth from the residual oxygen in the vacuum system; the oxygen content can be more than 20 at.%. The aim of this work was to study the deposition of silicon nitride thin films under different experimental conditions to determine whether oxidation during, or posterior, to the deposition where the principal processes. We used optical emission spectroscopy (OES) and Langmuir probe measurements to study the plasma species and the parameters of the plasma. The chemical composition and the deposition rate of the films were measured by Rutherford Back Scattering (RBS), x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and profilometry, respectively. The OES results showed that the signal from nitrogen reached a maximum at 0.4 Pa (N2+, 391.4 nm) and decreased if the nitrogen pressure was increased further. The maximum nitrogen concentration in the deposits was ~21 at.% at 1 Pa, with an oxygen content of 28 at%. For lower pressures the coatings were rich in silicon and the coatings deposited at higher pressure (>1Pa) were rich in oxygen up to 50 at.%.
Keywords— Laser ablation, oxidation, plasma, silicon nitride.
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