Films of insertion compounds and solid state electrolytes have been synthesized in order to study their applications in the domain of electrochemical ion and gas sensors. Laser ablation was used to deposit lithium metal oxides (LiMO2 where M is a transition metal Co or Mn).
The chemical composition in the films has been studied by Rutherford Backscattering spectrometry and nuclear reactions analysis in the case of the light elements (O, Li). For lithium transition metal oxides (LiMO2), the oxygen and lithium contents are determined by a thermodynamical equilibrium between the films and the partial pressures in the chamber. In these cases, laser ablation allows the synthesis of crystalline structures with a large range of oxygen non stoichiometry as compared to solid state reactions. They lead to interesting electrical properties. Using the appropriate temperatures and oxygen pressures, films with the correct stoichiometry could be obtained as polycrystalline onto Si or Si/Pt substrates whereas they exhibit high texturing and epitaxial growth onto MgO or MgO/Pt.
The films of LiMn2O4 and LiCoO2 have been used as electrochemical sensors for the measurement of the lithium concentration in solutions. They show a very rapid and selective response.