To develop high-performance, high-reliability gate insulation and surface passivation technologies for wide-bandgap semiconductor devices, the effect of atomic layer deposition (ALD) temperature on current conduction in Al2O3 films is investigated based on the recently proposed space-charge-controlled field emission model. Leakage current measurement shows that Al2O3 metal-insulator-semiconductor capacitors formed on the Si substrates underperform thermally grown SiO2 capacitors at the same average field. However, using equivalent oxide field as a more practical measure, the Al2O3 capacitors are found to outperform the SiO2 capacitors in the cases where the capacitors are negatively biased and the gate material is adequately selected to reduce virtual dipoles at the gate/Al2O3 interface. The Al2O3 electron affinity increases with the increasing ALD temperature, but the gate-side virtual dipoles are not affected. Therefore, the leakage current of negatively biased Al2O3 capacitors is approximately independent of the ALD temperature because of the compensation of the opposite effects of increased electron affinity and permittivity in Al2O3. By contrast, the substrate-side sheet of charge increases with increasing ALD temperature above 210 °C and hence enhances the current of positively biased Al2O3 capacitors more significantly at high temperatures. Additionally, an anomalous oscillatory shift of the current-voltage characteristics with ALD temperature was observed in positively biased capacitors formed by low-temperature (≤210 °C) ALD. This shift is caused by dipoles at the Al2O3/underlying SiO2 interface. Although they have a minimal positive-bias leakage current, the low-temperature-grown Al2O3 films cause the so-called blisters problem when heated above 400 °C. Therefore, because of the absence of blistering, a 450 °C ALD process is presently the most promising technology for growing high-reliability Al2O3 films.
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