Silicon nitride (SiNx) and hydrogenated silicon nitride (SiNx:H) thin films enjoy widespread scientific interest across multiple application fields. Exceptional combination of optical, mechanical, and thermal properties allows for their utilization in several industries, from solar and semiconductor to coated glass production. The wide bandgap (~5.2 eV) of thin films allows for its optoelectronic application, while the SiNx layers could act as passivation antireflective layers or as a host matrix for silicon nano-inclusions (Si-ni) for solar cell devices. In addition, high water-impermeability of SiNx makes it a potential candidate for barrier layers of organic light emission diodes (OLEDs). This work presents a review of the state-of-the-art process techniques and applications of SiNx and SiNx:H thin films. We focus on the trends and latest achievements of various deposition processes of recent years. Historically, different kinds of chemical vapor deposition (CVD), such as plasma enhanced (PE-CVD) or hot wire (HW-CVD), as well as electron cyclotron resonance (ECR), are the most common deposition methods, while physical vapor deposition (PVD), which is primarily sputtering, is also widely used. Besides these fabrication methods, atomic layer deposition (ALD) is an emerging technology due to the fact that it is able to control the deposition at the atomic level and provide extremely thin SiNx layers. The application of these three deposition methods is compared, while special attention is paid to the effect of the fabrication method on the properties of SiNx thin films, particularly the optical, mechanical, and thermal properties.
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