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Investigating the nucleation of AlOx and HfOx ALD on polyimide : influence of plasma activation

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

There is an increasing interest in atomic layer deposition (ALD) on polymers for the development of membranes, electronics, (3D) nanostructures and specially for the development of hermetic packaging of the new generation of flexible implantable micro-devices. This evolution demands a better understanding of the ALD nucleation process on polymers, which has not been reported in a visual way. Herein, a visual study of ALD nucleation on polymers is presented, based on the different dry etching speeds between polymers (fast) and metal oxides (slow). An etching process removes the polyimide with the nucleating ALD acting as a mask, making the nucleation features visible through secondary electron microscopy analyses. The nucleation of both Al2O3 and HfO2 on polyimide was investigated. Both materials followed an island-coalescence nucleation. First, local islands formed, progressively coalescing into filaments, which connected and formed meshes. These meshes evolved into porous layers that eventually grew to a full layer, marking the end of the nucleation. Cross-sections were analyzed, observing no sub-surface growth. This approach was used to evaluate the influence of plasma-activating polyimide on the nucleation. Plasma-induced oxygen functionalities provided additional surface reactive sites for the ALD precursors to adsorb and start the nucleation. The presented nucleation study proved to be a straightforward and simple way to evaluate ALD nucleation on polymers.
ISSN: 2079-6412
Issue: 11
Volume: 11
Publication year:2021