Gas source molecular beam epitaxy of scandium nitride on silicon carbide and gallium nitride surfaces

Sean W. King, Robert F. Davis, Robert Nemanich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Scandium nitride (ScN) is a group IIIB transition metal nitride semiconductor with numerous potential applications in electronic and optoelectronic devices due to close lattice matching with gallium nitride (GaN). However, prior investigations of ScN have focused primarily on heteroepitaxial growth on substrates with a high lattice mismatch of 7%-20%. In this study, the authors have investigated ammonia (NH3) gas source molecular beam epitaxy (NH3-GSMBE) of ScN on more closely lattice matched silicon carbide (SiC) and GaN surfaces (<3% mismatch). Based on a thermodynamic analysis of the ScN phase stability window, NH3-GSMBE conditions of 10-5-10-4Torr NH3and 800-1050°C where selected for initial investigation. In-situ x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and ex-situ Rutherford backscattering measurements showed all ScN films grown using these conditions were stoichiometric. For ScN growth on 3C-SiC (111)-(√3×√3)R30° carbon rich surfaces, the observed attenuation of the XPS Si 2p and C 1s substrate core levels with increasing ScN thickness indicated growth initiated in a layer-by-layer fashion. This was consistent with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images of 100-200nm thick films that revealed featureless surfaces. In contrast, ScN films grown on 3C-SiC (111)-(3×3) and 3C-SiC (100)-(3×2) silicon rich surfaces were found to exhibit extremely rough surfaces in SEM. ScN films grown on both 3C-SiC (111)-(√3×√3)R30° and 2H-GaN (0001)-(1×1) epilayer surfaces exhibited hexagonal (1×1) low energy electron diffraction patterns indicative of (111) oriented ScN. X-ray diffraction ω-2θ rocking curve scans for these same films showed a large full width half maximum of 0.29° (1047arc sec) consistent with transmission electron microscopy images that revealed the films to be poly-crystalline with columnar grains oriented at ≈15° to the [0001] direction of the 6H-SiC (0001) substrate. In-situ reflection electron energy loss spectroscopy measurements determined the band-gap for the NH3-GSMBE ScN films to be 1.5±0.3 eV, and thermal probe measurements indicated all ScN films to be n-type. The four point probe sheet resistance of the ScN films was observed to increase with decreasing growth temperature and decreased with unintentional oxygen incorporation. Hg probe capacitance-voltage measurements indicated ND-NAdecreased with decreasing growth temperature from 1019to 1020/cm3for the lowest resistivity films to ≅5×1016/cm3for the highest resistivity films. In-situ ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy measurements additionally showed the valence band maximum moving from 1.4 to 0.8 eV below the Fermi level with decreasing growth temperature consistent with the increased resistivity and reduction in carrier concentration. These results suggest that additional reductions in ScN carrier concentrations can be achieved via continued optimization of ScN growth conditions and selection of substrate orientation and surface termination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number061504
JournalJournal of Vacuum Science and Technology A: Vacuum, Surfaces and Films
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


Dive into the research topics of 'Gas source molecular beam epitaxy of scandium nitride on silicon carbide and gallium nitride surfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this