Electric dipoles at a metal-gate/Al2O3 interface are found to control the current conduction in negatively biased Al2O3 metal-insulator-semiconductor (MIS) capacitors by effectively increasing the Al2O3 electron affinity near the gate and thereby reducing the barrier height against electron field emission from the gate. By carrying out space-charge-controlled field emission analysis, the Al2O3 effective electron affinity in Al-gate capacitors was found to be larger than that for the Au gate by 0.38 eV, and the value for the Ni gate was similar to that for the Au gate. The cross-sectional transmission-electron-microscope images of the samples revealed the presence of an approximately 3-nm-thick layer intervening between the Al gate and the Al2O3 film. This layer is likely to have formed Al/Al2O3 interfacial dipoles that caused the aforementioned shift of the Al2O3 effective electron affinity. It was also confirmed that the conventional Fowler-Nordheim tunneling analysis yields remarkably erroneous results under the presence of these dipoles. These findings not only form the basis for investigating the band alignment of metal-gate MIS capacitors, but also alert us to a possibility of unexpectedly large leakage currents in negatively biased metal-gate MIS field-effect transistors.
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