Cobalt Metal ALD: Understanding the Mechanism and Role of Zinc Alkyl Precursors as Reductants for Low-Resistivity Co Thin Films

Zanders, D. and Liu, J. and Obenlüneschloß, J. and Bock, C. and Rogalla, D. and Mai, L. and Nolan, M. and Barry, S.T. and Devi, A.

Volume: Pages:
DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.1c00877
Published: 2021

In this work, we report a new and promising approach toward the atomic layer deposition (ALD) of metallic Co thin films. Utilizing the simple and known CoCl2(TMEDA) (TMEDA = N,N,N′,N′-tetramethylethylenediamine) precursor in combination with the intramolecularly stabilized Zn aminoalkyl compound Zn(DMP)2 (DMP = dimethylaminopropyl) as an auxiliary reducing agent, a thermal ALD process is developed that enables the deposition of Zn-free Co thin films. ALD studies demonstrate the saturation behavior of both precursors and linearity depending on the applied number of cycles as well as temperature dependency of film growth in a regime of 140-215 °C. While the process optimization is carried out on Si with native oxide, additional growth studies are conducted on Au and Pt substrates. This study is complemented by initial reactivity and suitability tests of several potential Zn alkyl-reducing agents. For the CoCl2(TMEDA)-Zn(DMP)2 combination, these findings allow us to propose a series of elemental reaction steps hypothetically leading to pure Co film formation in the ALD process whose feasibility is probed by a set of density functional theory (DFT) calculations. The DFT results show that for reactions of the precursors in the gas phase and on Co(111) substrate surfaces, a pathway involving C-C coupling and diamine formation through reductive elimination of an intermediate Co(II) alkyl species is preferred. Co thin films with an average thickness of 10-25 nm obtained from the process are subjected to thorough analysis comprising atomic force microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and Rutherford backscattering spectrometry/nuclear reaction analysis as well as depth profiling X-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS). From XPS analysis, it was found that graphitic and carbidic carbon coexist in the Co metal film bulk. Despite carbon concentrations of ∼20 at. % in the Co thin film bulk, resistivity measurements for ∼22 nm thick films grown on a defined SiO2 insulator layer yield highly promising values in a range of 15-20 μω cm without any postgrowth treatment. © 2021 American Chemical Society.

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