A room temperature method for the formation of ultrathin silicon oxide films

Date of Completion

January 1999


Chemistry, Polymer|Engineering, Materials Science




Growing interest surrounds the use of thin films to impart unique surface properties without adversely affecting those of the bulk. One such example is the formation of a stable high-energy silicon oxide surface on polymers. Thin silicon oxide films have been used to tailor the surface properties of many materials. Conventional methods for SiOx film fabrication such as chemical vapor deposition require either high temperature or expensive vacuum chambers. This research focuses on the intrinsically inexpensive process of UV-ozone to form ultrathin SiOx films from polysiloxane precursors at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. ^ Chemical evidence suggests a complete conversion from organic polymer to inorganic ceramic. Through XPS, the UV-ozone treatment oxidizes over 95% of the silicone's organic side groups with a resulting stoichiometry Of Si 1O2.2C0.08. The silicon oxidation state changes from 2+ in poly(dimethylsiloxane) to 93% 4+ corresponding to SiO2. IR studies show a total loss of methyl bands and the growth of a new Si-O band centered at 1225 cm-1. Gas phase reaction products suggest a radical driven process. ^ The physical properties also suggest a complete conversion to SiO x. Excellent control of film thickness, as low as 2 nm, has been demonstrated by variable angle spectroscopic ellipsometry. The ellipsometrically determined thickness loss of 55% during treatment corresponds to an SiOx film density of 1.9 g/cm3. The continuity of the film is demonstrated by electrical properties and a very low water contact angle consistent with SiOx. The later property ensures that the SiOx films are anti-fogging in nature. Unique hydrophilic-hydrophobic structures were formed through photo-patterning. ^ The reaction has been successfully modeled as self-limiting based on the diffusion of ozone. The chief reactant, atomic oxygen, is generated by the photochemical dissociation of ozone and quickly generates radical species within the polymer film. The reaction proceeds through a cascade of radical reaction pathways until the resulting oxide is formed. The penetration of ozone is limited to the topmost 30 nm of the film; hence, the formation of SiOx is also surface limited. SiOx films of upto 10 nm are formed at room temperature from polymeric precursors. ^