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Creating optical quality thin films with a high refractive index is increasingly important for waveguide sensor applications. In this study, we present optical models to measure the layer thickness, vertical and lateral homogeneity, the refractive index and the extinction coefficients of the polymer films with nanocrystal inclusions using spectroscopic ellipsometry. The optical properties can be determined in a broad wavelength range from 190 to 1700 nm. The sensitivity of spectroscopic ellipsometry allows a detailed characterization of the nanostructure of the layer, i.e. the surface roughness down to the nm scale, the interface properties, the optical density profile within the layer, and any other optical parameters that can be modeled in a proper and consistent way. In case of larger than about 50 nm particles even the particle size can be determined from the onset of depolarization due to light scattering. Besides the refractive index, the extinction coefficient, being a critical parameter for waveguiding layers, was also determined in a broad wavelength range. Using the above information from the ellipsometric models the preparation conditions can be identified. A range of samples were investigated including doctor bladed films using TiO2 nanoparticles.
We have developed optical models for the characterization of grain size in nanocrystal thin films embedded in SiO2 and fabricated using low pressure chemical vapor deposition of Si from silane on a quartz substrate, followed by thermal oxidation. The as-grown nanocrystals thin film on quartz was composed of a two-dimensional array of Si nanocrystals (Si-NC) showing columnar structure in the z-direction and touching each other in the x-y plane. The nanocrystal size in the z-direction was equal to the Si nanocrystal film thickness, changing by the deposition time, while their x-y size was almost equal in all the samples, with small size dispersion. After high temperature thermal oxidation, a thin silicon oxide film was formed on top of the nanocrystals layer. The aim of this work was to measure the grain size and the nanocrystallinity of the Si nanocrystal thin films, a quantity related to the change of the dielectric function. We used a definition for the nanorcystallinity that is related to the effective medium analysis (EMA) of the material. The optical technique used for the investigations was spectroscopic ellipsometry. To measure the above sample properties the thickness and composition of several layers on a quartz substrate had to be determined by proper modeling of this complex system. We found that the nanocrystallinity (defined as the ratio of nc-Si/(c-Si+nc-Si) decreases systematically with increasing the Si-NC layer thickness. Using this approach we are sensitive to the lifetime broadening of electrons caused by the scattering on the grain boundaries, and not to the shift of the direct interband transition energies due to quantum confinement.
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