Ion Beam Sputter Deposition (IBSD) is a versatile technique particularly suited to applications requiring high quality, high performance layer materials as it allows independent and accurate control of the process parameters. Vanadium oxides, used for example in the fabrication of microbolometers, optical switches or optical storage, exhibit interesting properties such as a high Temperature Coefficient of Resistance (TCR), relatively low 1/f noise and a semiconductormetal phase transition close to room temperature. However, it is very challenging to control the stoichiometry of the deposited film as there are at least 25 different oxidation states of vanadium, few of which display the required electrical characteristics. In the present study, vanadium oxide thin layers were deposited by IBSD using an Oxford Ionfab300+ and analyzed with regard to their electrical properties. The impact of the system parameters on the resistance repeatability, wafer-to-wafer and batch-to-batch, was thoroughly investigated to provide the end user with a clear understanding of the factors affecting film resistivity while ensuring at the same time a steep variation of resistance with temperature, as notably required for uncooled bolometers. These parameters were balanced to also achieve a good deposition rate, throughput and uniformity over large device areas, compatible with the requirements of industrial applications.
The conventional wisdom to guarantee high purity thin films in IBSD has been to use a large vacuum chamber usually in excess of 1 m3. The chamber size was important to minimise the effect of reflected high energy particles from the target surface sputtering chamber materials onto the substrate and to allow the use of large targets to avoid beam overspill onto chamber furniture. An improved understanding of beam trajectories and re-sputtered material paths has allowed the deposition of thin films with very low metallic impurity content in a chamber volume below 0.5 m3. Thus, by optimizing the sputter ion source, target and substrate configuration, and by arranging suitable shielding made of an appropriate material in the process chamber, the levels of contaminants in the deposited films have been reduced to a minimum. With this optimum hardware arrangement, the ion beam process parameters were then optimized with respect to the ppm levels of contaminants measured in the films by SIMS analysis. Using the deposition of SiO2 as a standard material for DSIMS composition analysis and impurity level determination, it has been shown that our IBS deposition tool is capable of depositing films with contamination levels of <50ppm for the total of all metal impurities in the deposited films.