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Silicon-based thin-film transistors with a high stability

By Bernd Stannowski


Thin-Film Transistors (TFTs) are widely applied as pixel-addressing devices in large-area electronics, such as active-matrix liquid-crystal displays (AMLCDs) or sensor arrays. Hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) and silicon nitride (a-SiNx:H) are generally used as the semiconductor and the insulator layers, respectively. Commonly, Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) is used to deposit such films on large glass or plastic substrates at rather low substrate temperatures of 200 - 300oC. Even though TFTs are nowadays used in commercial applications, they need further improvement with respect to a number of issues: Firstly, the stability upon prolonged application of a gate voltage results in a shift of the TFT transfer characteristics. This is explained with the metastability of a-Si:H, namely the defect creation in the amorphous channel. This effect hampers the application of TFTs e.g. in the peripheral driver circuitry of AMLCDs and in the addressing matrix of Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) displays. Secondly, the low deposition rate of the silicon limits the throughput in display fabrication. For a further reduction of the production costs higher deposition rates are crucial. This thesis addresses the development and the study of silicon-based TFTs with a high stability. Therefore, a-Si:H and a-SiNx:H films have been deposited with new techniques, alternative to the commonly used PECVD at a discharge frequency of 13.56 MHz. For Very High Frequency (VHF) PECVD we used frequencies in the range of 13.56 - 70 MHz. Furthermore, we deposited layers by Hot-Wire Chemical Vapor Deposition (HWCVD), utilizing heated tantalum or tungsten filaments to decompose the source-gas molecules catalytically. Hot-wire deposited a-SiNx:H layers were developed to be applied as gate insulator. Furthermore, they are promising for passivation purposes, since no surface damaging ion bombardment is present during the deposition. A proof-of-concept for an \u91All-Hot-Wire TFT\u92 with both the a-Si:H and the a-SiNx:H deposited by HWCVD is presented, yielding a considerable field-effect mobility of 0.3 cm2/Vs. The stability of various a-Si:H TFTs with either plasma a-SiNx:H or thermally grown SiO2 as the gate insulator was investigated by applying constant gate-bias stress of 25 V at temperatures of 20 - 110oC and durations of 10 - 105s. We determined the kinetics of defect-creation in the amorphous silicon by measuring the threshold-voltage shift and merging the data obtained at different stressing temperatures and times to one data set as a function of the \u91thermalization energy\u92. This scheme was described by Deane et al.. The kinetics follow a stretched hyperbola, which results from dispersive defect creation with an exponential distribution of activation energies. A least-squares fit yields two parameters: kBT0 is the slope of the barrier distribution, with values of (65 ? 3) meV for all TFTs in this stability study. The second parameter, Ea, is interpreted as the \u91mean activation energy for defect creation\u92. We used it for a comparison of the stability of various TFTs. For VHF-PECVD a-Si:H TFTs, values for Ea were around 0.92 eV and are found to be correlated with the mechanical stress in silicon films: A high value for Ea, thus a high stability, is related to a low compressive stress. For HWCVD a-Si:H the stability clearly increases with increasing deposition temperatures. The highest value being around 1.03 eV is obtained for het-Si:H, deposited at 510?C. From these results we concluded that the stability of a-Si:H is determined by the grade of network relaxation. Higher deposition temperatures result in a more efficient relaxation of the amorphous network. This can be associated with a higher medium-range order. In the case of the plasma-deposited a-Si:H films deposited at one temperature, the relation between Ea and mechanical stress may be a secondary effect, with the mechanical stress being related to the network ordering. In conclusion, HWCVD appears to be an ideal method to deposit highly stable a-Si:H TFTs, since a rather high temperature is combined with an effective hydrogenation, resulting in a-Si:H film with a low and stable defect density

Topics: Natuur- en Sterrenkunde, thin-film transistor, TFT, amorphous silicon, silicon nitride, hot-wire chemical vapor deposition, stability, metastability, defects
Year: 2002
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