Vanadium dioxide (VO_2) is a material of particular interest due to its exhibited metal to insulator phase transition at 68°C that is accompanied by an abrupt and significant change in its electronic and optical properties. Since this material can exhibit a reversible drop in resistivity of up to five orders of magnitude and a reversible drop in infrared optical transmission of up to 80%, this material holds promise in several technological applications. Solid phase crystallization of VO_2 thin films was obtained by a post-deposition annealing process of a VO_{x,x approx 2} amorphous film sputtered on an amorphous silicon dioxide (SiO_2) layer. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron-backscattered diffraction (EBSD) were utilized to study the morphology of the solid phase crystallization that resulted from this post-deposition annealing process. The annealing parameters ranged in temperature from 300°C up to 1000°C and in time from 5 minutes up to 12 hours. Depending on the annealing parameters, EBSD showed that this process yielded polycrystalline vanadium dioxide thin films, semi-continuous thin films, and films of isolated single-crystal particles. In addition to these films on SiO_2, other VO_2 thin films were deposited onto a-, c-, and r-cuts of sapphire and on TiO_2(001) heated single-crystal substrates by pulsed-laser deposition (PLD). The temperature of the substrates was kept at ~500°C during deposition. EBSD maps and orientation imaging microscopy were used to study the epitaxy and orientation of the VO_2 grains deposited on the single crystal substrates, as well as on the amorphous SiO_2 layer. The EBSD/OIM results showed that: 1) For all the sapphire substrates analyzed, there is a predominant family of crystallographic relationships wherein the rutile VO_2{001} planes tend to lie parallel to the sapphire's {10-10} and the rutile VO_2{100} planes lie parallel to the sapphire's {1-210} and {0001}. Furthermore, while this family of relationships accounts for the majority of the VO_2 grains observed, due to the sapphire substrate's geometry there were variations within these rules that changed the orientation of VO_2 grains with respect to the substrate's normal direction. 2) For the TiO_2, a substrate with a lower lattice mismatch, we observe the expected relationship where the rutile VO_2 [100], [110], and [001] crystal directions lie parallel to the TiO_2 substrate's [100], [110], and [001] crystal directions respectively. 3) For the amorphous SiO_2 layer, all VO_2 crystals that were measurable (those that grew to the thickness of the deposited film) had a preferred orientation with the the rutile VO_2[001] crystal direction tending to lie parallel to the plane of the specimen. The use of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is presented as a tool for further characterization studies of this material and its applications. In this work TEM diffraction patterns taken from cross-sections of particles of the a- and r-cut sapphire substrates not only solidified the predominant family mentioned, but also helped lift the ambiguity present in the rutile VO_2{100} axes. Finally, a focused-ion beam technique for preparation of cross-sectional TEM samples of metallic thin films deposited on polymer substrates is demonstrated.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Physics and Astronomy



Date Submitted


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vanadium dioxide, electron microscopy, SEM, TEM, FIB, focused ion beam, thin films, characterization