Structural phase transitions in hafnia and zirconia at ambient pressure

Luo, Xuhui
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In recent years, both hafnia and zirconia have been looked at closely in the quest for a high permittivity gate dielectric to replace silicon dioxide in advanced metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistors (MOSFET). Hafnium dioxide or HfO2 is chosen for its high dielectric constant (five times that of SiO2) and compatibility with stringent requirements of the Si process. As deposited, thin hafnia films are typically amorphous but turn polycrystalline after a post-deposition anneal. To control the phase composition in hafnia films understanding of structural phase transitions is a first step. In this dissertation using first principles methods we consider three phase transitions of hafnia and zirconia: monoclinic to tetragonal, tetragonal to cubic and amorphous to crystalline. Because the high surface to volume ratio in hafnia films and powders plays an important role in phase transitions, we also study the surface properties of hafnia. We discuss the mechanisms of various phase transitions and theoretically estimate the transition temperatures. We find two types of amorphous hafnia and show that they have different structural and electronic properties. The small energy barrier between the amorphous and crystalline structures is found to cause the low crystallization temperature. Moreover, we calculate work functions and surface energies for hafnia surfaces and show the surface suppression of the phase transitions.