Sputter deposition of transparent conductive oxides, TCO, like indiumtinoxide ITO or aluminiumzinkoxide AZO

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Transparent conductive oxide, TCO

Transparent conductive oxide (TCO) combines two important material properties: transparency and conductivity. Therefore it is used as front electrode material for several applications:

Most stoechiometric oxides are isolators, but some are wideband semiconductors. By doping the oxide or replacing some atoms in the lattice by other atoms with more or less outer electrons, it is possible to generate electrical conductivity. The oxides of indium In, tin Sn and zink Zn are well suited for such an application. Most widely used for LCDs is ITO, indium tin oxide or tin doped indiumoxide Sn:In2O3. Some indium atoms (3rd group of PSE, periodic system of the elements) are replaced by tin atoms (4th group of PSE). For solar applications, the cheaper AZO aluminiumzinkoxide or aluminum doped zinkoxide Al:ZnO is used frequently. Alternatively GZO galliumzinkoxide or gallium doped zinkoxide Ga:ZnO can be used. Here Zn-Atoms (2nd subgroup of PSE) are replaced by Aluminium or Gallium atoms (3rd group of PSE).

Deposition of TCO by sputter technology

The most common way to deposit transparent conductive oxides on a substrate or superstrate is to use sputter technology. Several targets are mounted in the long modular vacuum system or the sputtering tool. The bombardment of the target by energetic ions ejects atoms from the target and brings them to the gas phase, from where they are deposited on the substrate, which is moving slowly through the vacuum system.

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