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Thin films of hafnium oxide have been prepared by using a dual ion beam sputtering system. A study of their physical properties is reported. In particular, structural and compositional characterization was performed by means of x-ray diffraction and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy techniques, showing a mixture of amorphous and polycrystalline structure and a substoichiometric composition. The atomic force microscopy results have shown a crater-like morphology probably due to the deposition process. In addition the gas sensing characteristics were analyzed in the presence of carbon monoxide. The variations in the electrical resistance have shown the capability of the films to detect CO and then the possibility to use hafnium oxides as a new sensitive material in the field of gas sensors. © 1998 American Vacuum Society.