Effect of annealing atmosphere (CO and N2 gas flow) on surface morphology and crystal quality of AlN buffer layer

Cheng Cheng, Wei Han Lai, Chun Kai Huang, Cheng Yi Liu

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In this study, the effect of the annealing atmosphere (N2–CO and pure N2 atmosphere) on the crystal quality, surface morphology, and surface O content of the annealed AlN buffer layers was studied. The FWHM of the (0002) plane of an XRD rocking curve showed that the screw dislocation density of the as-grown AlN film can be reduced by annealing in both N2–CO and pure N2 atmosphere. The AlN film showed an improvement in crystal quality under pure N2 annealing atmosphere. As annealing the AlN buffer layer improves the crystal quality, surface roughness, and surface O content of the AlN film, it should be well controlled for the subsequent growth of III-nitride layers. The surface oxidation that occurred on the AlN films during annealing in N2–CO atmosphere resulted in an increase in surface O content and surface roughness of the AlN films, which is undesirable for the subsequent growth of III-nitride layers. We observed that the surface O content (in the depth of 2-nm) of all annealed AlN films was reduced in the N2 annealing atmosphere, which could be due to the O outgassing from the AlN surface to the pure N2 annealing atmosphere. The O outgassing of the surface O content in the AlN surface layer was related to the volume of space in the annealing setups. However, a large volume of annealing space under pure N2 gas flow resulted in higher thermal decomposition on the annealing AlN films, leading to pits forming on the annealed AlN surface and a smearing of the original step-terrace structure. Therefore, we found that there is an optimal annealing atmosphere space in maintaining the original surface morphology and achieving low surface O content in the annealed AlN film.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11080-11088
Number of pages9
JournalCeramics International
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • AlN
  • Annealing
  • Surface morphology
  • Thermal decomposition


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