Applied Surface Science, Vol.423, 611-618, 2017
SnO2 epitaxial films with varying thickness on c-sapphire: Structure evolution and optical band gap modulation
A series of a-plane SnO2 films with thickness between 2.5 nm and 1436 nm were grown epitaxially on c-sapphire by pulsed laser deposition (PLD), to allow a detailed probe into the structure evolution and optical band gap modulation of SnO2 with growing thickness. All films exhibit excellent out-of-plane ordering (lowest (200) rocking-curve half width similar to 0.01 degrees) with an orientation of SnO2(100) || Al2O3(0001), while three equivalent domains that are rotated by 120 degrees with one another coexist in-plane with SnO2 || Al2O3 [11-20]. Initially the SnO2(100) film assumes a two-dimensional (2D) layer-by-layer growth mode with atomically smooth surface (minimum root-mean-square roughness of 0.183 nm), and endures compressive strain along both c and a axes as well as mild tensile strain along the b-axis. With increasing thickness, transition from the 2D to 3D island growth mode takes place, leading to formation of various defects to allow relief of the stress and thus relaxation of the film towards bulk SnO2. More interestingly, with increasing thickness from nm to mu m, the SnO2 films present a non-monotonic V-shaped variation in the optical band gap energy. While the band gap of SnO2 films thinner than 6.1 nm increases rapidly with decreasing film thickness due to the quantum size effect, the band gap of thicker SnO2 films broadens almost linearly with increasing film thickness up to 374 nm, as a result of the strain effect. The present work sheds light on future design of SnO2 films with desired band gap for particular applications by thickness control and strain engineering. (c) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.