Ultra-thin films (UTFs) are important in many applications, seen in the semiconductor industry, in chromatography, in sensing, in microfluidics, in aerospace, and in robotics. They also protect materials from corrosion, change surface energies, limit water intrusion into materials, allow material self-cleaning and self-healing, provide scratch resistance, and impart other specific chemical properties. In many cases, UTFs drastically alter surface properties and therefore their applications. It is imperative that proper and consistent characterization be performed on coatings to confirm and understand their desired properties. In Chapter two, Al oxidation under MgF2 protective layers is studied using real time X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), and spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE). These tools allowed me to monitor Al oxidation for both short (hours) and long (months) periods of time. XPS revealed the chemical changes that took place in these materials as a function of time, and these changes were verified with SE. These studies help increase an understanding of aluminum changes under MgF2 protective layers. The third chapter demonstrates ab initio calculations guided X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analysis of surfaces functionalized with fluorinated silanes. This study addresses deficiencies in the literature where CF2:CF3 ratios from experimental XPS data do not match theoretical CF2:CF3 ratios. In a systematic approach, I developed semi-empirical models directed both by ab initio calculations and adjustable, empirical parameters. These models were effective in describing the raw data and exceeded fitting methods used in literature. In Chapter four, SiO2 UTFs with variable thicknesses deposited on Eagle XG® glass substrates are characterized. Challenges associated with this work consisted of similar optical functions of the film and substrate as well as backside reflections from the substrate. These obstacles were met using a multi-sample analysis (MSA), a variable angle spectroscopic ellipsometric approach, and mechanical abrasion/roughening of the substrate backside. With these approaches, I developed a model that precisely fit the data collected from all the samples and gave the correct optical function of the material along with thickness values for each film. Surface characterization represents a commitment of resources. It takes time to make measurements, and it takes time to analyze and understand the results. As presented in this work, I increase understanding of ultra-thin films at interfaces using both a multi-tool approach as well as using multiple analytical methods on data collected from each tool.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



Date Submitted


Document Type





Spectroscopic ellipsometry, XPS, Aluminum oxide, Silicon dioxide, Real-time analysis, Perfluorocarbon analyses, Ultra-Thin Film Analysis