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Marikkannan, M. and Subramanian, M. and Mayandi, J. and Tanemura, M. and Vishnukanthan, V. and Pearce, J. M., Effect of ambient combinations of argon, oxygen, and hydrogen on the properties of DC magnetron sputtered indium tin oxide films, AIP Advances, 5, 017128 (2015), DOI: open access

Sputtering has been well-developed industrially with singular ambient gases including neutral argon (Ar), oxygen (O2), hydrogen (H2) and nitrogen (N2) to enhance the electrical and optical performances of indium tin oxide (ITO) films. Recent preliminary investigation into the use of combined ambient gases such as an Ar+O2+H2 ambient mixture, which was suitable for producing high-quality (low sheet resistance and high optical transmittance) of ITO films. To build on this promising preliminary work and develop deeper insight into the effect of ambient atmospheres on ITO film growth, this study provides a more detailed investigation of the effects of ambient combinations of Ar, O2, H2 on sputtered ITO films. Thin films of ITO were deposited on glass substrates by DC magnetron sputtering using three different ambient combinations: Ar, Ar+O2 and Ar+O2+H2. The structural, electrical and optical properties of the three ambient sputtered ITO films were systematically characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Raman spectroscopy, four probe electrical conductivity and optical spectroscopy. The XRD and Raman studies confirmed the cubic indium oxide structure, which is polycrystalline at room temperature for all the samples. AFM shows the minimum surface roughness of 2.7 nm for Ar+O2+H2 sputtered thin film material. The thickness of the films was determined by the cross sectional SEM analysis and its thickness was varied from 920 to 817 nm. The columnar growth of ITO films was also discussed here. The electrical and optical measurements of Ar+O2+H2 ambient combinations shows a decreased sheet resistance (5.06 ohm/□) and increased optical transmittance (69%) than other samples. The refractive index and packing density of the films were projected using optical transmission spectrum. From the observed results the Ar+O2+H2 ambient is a good choice to enhance the total optoelectronic properties of the ITO films. The improved electrical and optical properties of ITO films with respect to the Ar+O2+H2 ambient sample were discussed in detail. In addition, the physical properties were also discussed with the influence of this ambient combination with respect to Ar, Ar+O2 and Ar+O2+H2.

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