Nano- and micro-scale morghological defects in oxidized a-SiC: H thin films
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Amorphous carbon rich a-SiC:H films were deposited on silicon substrates by RF-magnetron sputtering of SiC target in argon/methane gas mixture. The principal focus of this study was investigation of the effect of thermal oxidation on structure and morphology reconstruction in a-SiC:H amorphous network. The density of the films was varied over the range 1.6-2.2 g/cm2 by varying the magnetron discharge power. The local nano- and micro-scale surface morphology and chemical composition distribution were examined by atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy equipped with Auger electron scanning system and optical profilometry. It was found that partial oxidation leads to local structure reconstruction accompanied by transformation of mechanical stresses from compressive to tensile. Formation of carbon-enriched nano- and micro-scale regions was observed after oxidation in low density samples. We attrribute these morphological defects to migration and precipitation of carbon species released in the process of oxidation of the SiC amorphous network. The mechanism of tensile stresses generation is also discussed.
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