Ultra-thin film NbN depositions for HEB heterodyne mixer on Si-substrates
Paper in proceedings, 2013
The key of improving hot-electron bolometer (HEB) mixer performance lies inevitably in the quality of ultra-thin NbN films itself. This work presents a thorough investigation of crucial process parameters of NbN films deposited by means of reactive DC-sputtering on Si-substrates at elevated temperatures up to 750°C.
The polycrystalline NbN films with thickness of 4 to 10nm were characterized by DC resistivity measurements, ellipsometry and high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) in order to confirm thickness and film structure. Since the macroscopic properties such as critical temperature, thickness as well as the transition width to the superconducting state are directly linked to HEB mixer noise temperature and IF bandwidth, a set of experiments were conducted to enhance aforementioned properties. We considered deposition temperature, RF biasing, nitrogen and argon partial and total pressure during deposition as major process variable parameters. Careful optimization of the deposition conditions allowed setting up a process resulting in high-quality NbN ultra-thin films with thickness of 5.5nm exhibiting Tc of 10.5K. Moreover, the transition width could be kept as low as 1.4K. The produced films were stored at ambient conditions and re-characterized over a period of 4 month without measurable degradation.