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Growth Rate Determination through Automated TEM Image Analysis: Crystallization Studies of Doped SbTe Phase-Change Thin Films

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2010

Jasper L.M. Oosthoek
Materials Innovation Institute M2i and Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG, Groningen, The Netherlands
Bart J. Kooi*
Materials Innovation Institute M2i and Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG, Groningen, The Netherlands
Jeff T.M. De Hosson
Materials Innovation Institute M2i and Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG, Groningen, The Netherlands
Rob A.M. Wolters
NXP-TSMC Research Center, High Tech Campus 4, 5656 AE Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Dirk J. Gravesteijn
NXP-TSMC Research Center, High Tech Campus 4, 5656 AE Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Karen Attenborough
NXP-TSMC Research Center, Kapeldreef 75, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
Corresponding author. E-mail:
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A computer-controlled procedure is outlined here that first determines the position of the amorphous-crystalline interface in an image. Subsequently, from a time series of these images, the velocity of the crystal growth front is quantified. The procedure presented here can be useful for a wide range of applications, and we apply the new approach to determine growth rates in a so-called fast-growth-type phase-change material. The growth rate (without nucleation) of this material is of interest for comparison with identical material used in phase-change random access memory cells. Crystal growth rates in the amorphous phase-change layers have been measured at various temperatures using in situ heating in a transmission electron microscope. Doped SbTe films (20 nm thick) were deposited on silicon nitride membranes, and samples with and without silicon oxide capping layer were studied. The activation energy for growth was found to be 3.0 eV. The samples without capping layer exhibit a nucleation rate that is an order of magnitude higher than the samples with a silicon oxide capping layer. This difference can be attributed to the partial oxidation of the phase-change layer in air. However, the growth rates of the samples with and without capping are quite comparable.

Materials Applications
Copyright © Microscopy Society of America 2010

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