Advances in pulsed-laser-deposited AIN thin films for high-temperature capping, device passivation, and piezoelectric-based RF MEMS/NEMS resonator applications

Research paper by S. S. Hullavarad, R. D. Vispute, B. Nagaraj, V. N. Kulkarni, S. Dhar, T. Venkatesan, K. A. Jones, M. Derenge, T. Zheleva, M. H. Ervin, A. Lelis, C. J. Scozzie, D. Habersat, A. E. Wickenden, L. J. Currano, et al.

Indexed on: 01 Apr '06Published on: 01 Apr '06Published in: Journal of Electronic Materials


In this paper we report recent advances in pulsed-laser-deposited AIN thin films for high-temperature capping of SiC, passivation of SiC-based devices, and fabrication of a piezoelectric MEMS/NEMS resonator on Pt-metallized SiO2/Si. The AlN films grown using the reactive laser ablation technique were found to be highly stoichiometric, dense with an optical band gap of 6.2 eV, and with a surface smoothness of less than 1 nm. A low-temperature buffer-layer approach was used to reduce the lattice and thermal mismatch strains. The dependence of the quality of AlN thin films and its characteristics as a function of processing parameters are discussed. Due to high crystallinity, near-perfect stoichiometry, and high packing density, pulsed-laser-deposited AlN thin films show a tendency to withstand high temperatures up to 1600°C, and which enables it to be used as an anneal capping layer for SiC wafers for removing ion-implantation damage and dopant activation. The laser-deposited AlN thin films show conformal coverage on SiC-based devices and exhibit an electrical break-down strength of 1.66 MV/cm up to 350°C when used as an insulator in Ni/AlN/SiC metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) devices. Pulsed laser deposition (PLD) AlN films grown on Pt/SiO2/Si (100) substrates for radio-frequency microelectrical and mechanical systems and nanoelectrical and mechanical systems (MEMS and NEMS) demonstrated resonators having high Q values ranging from 8,000 to 17,000 in the frequency range of 2.5–0.45 MHz. AlN thin films were characterized by x-ray diffraction, Rutherford backscattering spectrometry (in normal and oxygen resonance mode), atomic force microscopy, ultraviolet (UV)-visible spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. Applications exploiting characteristics of high bandgap, high bond strength, excellent piezoelectric characteristics, extremely high chemical inertness, high electrical resistivity, high breakdown strength, and high thermal stability of the pulsed-laser-deposited thin films have been discussed in the context of emerging developments of SiC power devices, for high-temperature electronics, and for radio frequency (RF) MEMS.