Plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition (PEALD) is a widely used, powerful layer-by-layer coating technology. Here, we present an atomistic simulation scheme for PEALD processes, combining the Monte Carlo deposition algorithm and structure relaxation using molecular dynamics. In contrast to previous implementations, our approach employs a real, atomistic model of the precursor. This allows us to account for steric hindrance and overlap restrictions at the surface corresponding to the real precursor deposition step. In addition, our scheme takes various process parameters into account, employing predefined probabilities for precursor products at each Monte Carlo deposition step. The new simulation protocol was applied to investigate PEALD synthesis of SiO2
thin films using the bis-diethylaminosilane precursor. It revealed that increasing the probability for precursor binding to one surface oxygen atom favors amorphous layer growth, a large number of –OH impurities, and the formation of voids. In contrast, a higher probability for precursor binding to two surface oxygen atoms leads to dense SiO2
film growth and a reduction of –OH impurities. Increasing the probability for the formation of doubly bonded precursor sites is therefore the key factor for the formation of dense SiO2
PEALD thin films with reduced amounts of voids and –OH impurities.
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