Structural characteristics and optical properties of plasma assisted reactive magnetron sputtered dielectric thin films for planar waveguiding applications

S.J. Pearce (Corresponding Author), M.D.B. Charlton, Jussi Hiltunen, J. Puustinen, J. Lappalainen, J.S. Wilkinson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Thin films of aluminum oxide (Al2O3), tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5), titanium oxide (TiO2), yttrium oxide (Y2O3) and zirconium oxide (ZrO2) were deposited by plasma assisted reactive dual magnetron sputtering to determine their suitability as a host for a rare earth doped planar waveguide upconversion laser. The effect of deposition parameters such as cathode, plasma power and oxygen gas flows were studied and the operational working points were determined. Both power and lambda control were used to optimize the optical quality of each material. By using lambda control feedback system, the magnetron power fluctuates to sustain a fixed oxygen flow in the target area reducing the compound layer growth on the material and maintaining a healthy deposition rate. The optical properties, structure and crystalline phase of each film were found to be dependent on the process parameters. X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis revealed that the thin films varied from amorphous to highly crystalline depending on the deposition conditions. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) was utilized for surface compositional analysis revealing that films had varying stoichiometric ratios which are controlled for each material by the deposition parameters chosen. The waveguide loss for the thin film layers was investigated and Ta2O5 was shown to have a slab waveguide loss of ~ 1 dB/cm at both visible and infra-red wavelengths making it ideal for planar waveguide and laser applications. TiO2, Y2O3 and ZrO2 were found to deposit in a highly crystalline phase. Waveguiding in the TiO2 layers was not possible at 633 nm or in the infrared region. The Y2O3 samples gave low loss (2–4 dB/cm) at the 1.3 and 1.5 μm wavelengths but no waveguiding at 633 nm or 833 nm was possible. Atomic force microscopy showed rough surface topography for TiO2, Y2O3 and ZrO2 akin to their crystalline growth with the SEM images confirming the regular crystalline columnar structure for the case of Y2O3 and ZrO2.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4930-4939
    Number of pages9
    JournalSurface and Coatings Technology
    Issue number23
    Publication statusPublished - 2012
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Amorphous
    • crystalline
    • dielectrics
    • feedback control
    • reactive sputtering
    • thin film deposition


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