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Metastable Defects in Tritiated Amorphous Silicon

  • Tong Ju (a1), Janica Whitaker (a2), Stefan Zukotynski (a3), Nazir Kherani (a4), P. Craig Taylor (a5) and Paul Stradins (a6)...

Abstract

The appearance of optically or electrically induced defects in hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H), especially those that contribute to the Staebler-Wronski effect, has been the topic of numerous studies, yet the mechanism of defect creation and annealing is far from clarified. We have been observing the growth of defects caused by tritium decay in tritiated a Si-H instead of inducing defects optically. Tritium decays to 3He, emitting a beta particle (average energy of 5.7 keV) and an antineutrino. This reaction has a half âlife of 12.5 years. In these 7 at.% tritium-doped a-Si:H samples each beta decay will create a defect by converting a bonded tritium to an interstitial helium, leaving behind a silicon dangling bond. We use ESR (electron spin resonance) and PDS( photothermal deflection spectroscopy) to track the defects. First we annealed these samples, and then we used ESR to determine the initial defect density around 1016 to 1017 /cm3 , which is mostly a surface spin density. After that we have kept the samples in liquid nitrogen for almost two years. During the two years we have used ESR to track the defect densities of the samples. The defect density increases without saturation to a value of 3x1019/cm3 after two years, a number smaller than one would expect if each tritium decay were to create a silicon dangling bond (2x1020/cm3). This result suggests that there might be either an annealing process that remains at liquid nitrogen temperature, or tritium decay in clustered phase not producing a dangling bond due to bond reconstruction and emission of the hydrogen previously paired to Si-bonded tritium atom. After storage in liquid nitrogen for two years, we have annealed the samples. We have stepwise annealed one sample at temperatures up to 200°C, where all of the defects from beta decay are annealed out, and reconstructed the annealing energy distribution. The second sample, which was grown at 150°C, has been isothermally annealing at 300 K for several months. The defects remain well above their saturation value at 300 K, and the shape of decay suggests some interaction between the defects.

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