Morphogenesis of Nanostructures in Glancing Angle Deposition of Metal Thin Film Coatings

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Brown, Timothy James
Thin Film Deposition , Morphology , Crystallography , Growth Dynamics , Nanostructure , Metal Coatings
Atomic vapors condensed onto solid surfaces form a remarkable category of condensed matter materials, the so-called thin films, with a myriad of compositions, morphological structures, and properties. The dynamic process of atomic condensation exhibits self-assembled pattern formation, producing morphologies with atomic-scale three-dimensional structures of seemingly limitless variety. This study attempts to shed new light on the dynamical growth processes of thin film deposition by analyzing in detail a previously unreported specific distinct emergent structure, a crystalline triangular-shaped spike that grows within copper and silver thin films. I explored the deposition parameters that lead to the growth of these unique structures, referred to as ``nanospikes'', fabricating approximately 55 thin films and used scanning electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction analysis. The variation of parameters include: vapor incidence angle, film thickness, substrate temperature, deposition rate, deposition material, substrate, and source-to-substrate distance. Microscopy analysis reveals that the silver and copper films deposited at glancing vapor incidence angles, 80 degrees and greater, have a high degree of branching interconnectivity between adjacent inclined nanorods. Diffraction analysis reveals that the vapor incidence angle influences the sub-populations of crystallites in the films, producing two different [110] crystal texture orientations. I hypothesize that the growth of nanospikes from nanorods is initiated by the stochastic arrival of vapor atoms and photons emitted from the deposition source at small diameter nanorods, and then driven by localized heating from vapor condensation and photon absorption. Restricted heat flow due to nanoscale thermal conduction maintains an elevated local temperature at the nanorod, enhancing adatom diffusion and enabling fast epitaxial crystal growth, leading to the formation and growth of nanospikes. Electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction analysis, and comparisons to related scientific literature, support this hypothesis. I also designed a highly modular ultrahigh vacuum deposition chamber, capable of concurrently mounting several different pieces of deposition equipment, that allows for a high degree of control of the growth dynamics of deposited thin films. I used the newly designed chamber to fabricate tailor-made nanostructured tantalum films for use in ultracapacitors, for the Cabot Corporation.
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