Growth model and structure evolution of Ag layers deposited on Ge films

Ciesielski A., Skowronski L., Górecka E., Kierdaszuk J. and Szoplik T.

Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology

9, 2018, 66-76, 10.3762/bjnano.9.9

We investigated the crystallinity and optical parameters of silver layers of 10–35 nm thickness as a function 2–10 nm thick Ge wetting films deposited on SiO2 substrates. X-ray reflectometry (XRR) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) measurements proved that segregation of germanium into the surface of the silver film is a result of the gradient growth of silver crystals. The free energy of Ge atoms is reduced by their migration from boundaries of larger grains at the Ag/SiO2 interface to boundaries of smaller grains near the Ag surface. Annealing at different temperatures and various durations allowed for a controlled distribution of crystal dimensions, thus influencing the segregation rate. Furthermore, using ellipsometric and optical transmission measurements we determined the time-dependent evolution of the film structure. If stored under ambient conditions for the first week after deposition, the changes in the transmission spectra are smaller than the measurement accuracy. Over the course of the following three weeks, the segregation-induced effects result in considerably modified transmission spectra. Two months after deposition, the slope of the silver layer density profile derived from the XRR spectra was found to be inverted due to the completed segregation process, and the optical transmission spectra increased uniformly due to the roughened surfaces, corrosion of silver and ongoing recrystallization. The Raman spectra of the Ge wetted Ag films were measured immediately after deposition and ten days later and demonstrated that the Ge atoms at the Ag grain boundaries form clusters of a few atoms where the Ge–Ge bonds are still present.