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Zinc Oxide thin films were deposited on sapphire substrates by radio frequency (RF) magnetron sputtering from an ultra-high purity ZnO solid target. The ZnO films were deposited on sapphire substrates heated in oxygen and/or in vacuum prior to deposition. Additional parameters investigated included the substrate temperature varied from 25 °C to 600 °C, the deposition gas pressure varied from 5 mTorr to 40 mTorr and the gas flow rate varied from 5 to 30 standard cubic centimeter per minute (sccm). The resulting films were annealed using a rapid thermal processor in N2 gas at 900 °C for 5 min. Analyses carried out using photoluminescence spectroscopy (PL) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) measurements indicate that films deposited at 300 °C using Ar:O2 (1:1) had the best optical and microstructure qualities. Pre-heating the sapphire substrate in oxygen prior to deposition was found to create a smoother sapphire surface, and this produced a ZnO film with greatly improved qualities. This film had a luminescence peak at 3.362 eV with a full-width-half maximum (FWHM) value of 15.3 meV when measured at 11 K. The XRD 2θ-scans had peaks at 34.4° with the best FWHM value of only 0.10°. Production of high quality ZnO materials is a necessary step towards realizing highly conductive p-type doped ZnO materials which is currently a major goal in research efforts on ZnO.
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