Very thin aluminum-doped zinc oxide (AZO) films with a well-defined (0001) orientation and a surface roughness of 0.357 nm were deposited on amorphous glass substrates at a temperature of 200 °C by radio frequency magnetron sputtering, which are promising, particularly in terms of orientation evolution, surface roughness, and carrier transport, as buffer layers for the subsequent deposition of highly (0001)-oriented AZO polycrystalline films of 490 nm thickness by direct current (DC) magnetron sputtering. Sintered AZO targets with an Al2O3 content of 2.0 wt. % were used. DC magnetron sputtered AZO films on bare glass substrates showed a mixed (0001) and the others crystallographic orientation, and exhibited a high contribution of grain boundary scattering to carrier transport, resulting in reduced Hall mobility. Optimizing the thickness of the AZO buffer layers to 10 nm led to highly (0001)-oriented bulk AZO films with a marked reduction in the above contribution, resulting in AZO films with improved Hall mobility together with enhanced carrier concentration. The surface morphology and point defect density were also improved by applying the buffer layers, as shown by atomic force microscopy and Raman spectroscopy, respectively.
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