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Two cathodic arc plasma deposition processes have been used to deposit niobium nitride films in ambient nitrogen: (a) cathodic arc plasma deposition without dynamic mixing and (b) cathodic arc plasma deposition with energetic ion dynamic mixing. Smooth and continuous niobium nitride films were fabricated at low temperature in process (b) but at higher temperature (500 °C) in process (a). The effects of the substrate temperature on the film composition and preferred orientation were investigated. In process (a), films deposited at room temperature and 300 °C exhibited a preferred orientation of (220) whereas those deposited at 500 °C showed a preferred orientation of (200). The nitrogen content in the film synthesized in process (b) is higher than that in the films deposited in process (a). Our results show that with energetic ion dynamic mixing, niobium nitride films with excellent properties can be fabricated at low substrate temperature using a niobium metal arc plasma source in a nitrogen plasma immersion configuration. © 2001 American Vacuum Society.