Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemistry & Biochemistry

First Advisor

Steven M. George

Second Advisor

Niels Damrauer

Third Advisor

Wei Zhang

Fourth Advisor

Michael Marshak

Fifth Advisor

Victor Bright


In this thesis, in situ Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy was used to study:

i) the growth and pyrolysis of molecular layer deposition (MLD) films

ii) the surface chemistry of atomic layer etching (ALE) processes

Atomic layer processes such as molecular layer deposition (MLD) and atomic layer etching (ALE) are techniques that can add or remove material with atomic level precision using sequential, self-limiting surface reactions. Deposition and removal processes at the atomic scale are powerful tools for many industrial and research applications such as energy storage and semiconductor nanofabrication.

The first section of this thesis describes the chemistry of reactions leading to the MLD of aluminum and tin alkoxide polymer films known as “alucone” and “tincone”, respectively. The subsequent pyrolysis of these films to produce metal oxide/carbon composites was also investigated. In situ FTIR spectroscopy was conducted to monitor surface species during MLD film growth and to monitor the films background infrared absorbance versus pyrolysis temperature. Ex situ techniques such as transmission electron microscopy (TEM), four-point probe and X-ray diffraction (XRD) were utilized to study the properties of the films post-pyrolysis. TEM confirmed that the pyrolyzed films maintained conformality during post-processing. Four-point probe monitored film resistivity versus pyrolysis temperature and XRD determined the film crystallinity.

The second section of this thesis focuses on the surface chemistry of Al2O3 and SiO2 ALE processes, respectively. Thermal ALE processes have been recently developed which utilize sequential fluorination and ligand exchange reactions. An intimate knowledge of the surface chemistry is important in understanding the ALE process. In this section, the competition between the Al2O3 etching and AlF3 growth that occur during sequential HF (fluorinating agent) and TMA (ligand exchange) exposures is investigated using in situ FTIR spectroscopy. Also included in this section is the first demonstration of thermal ALE for SiO2. In situ FTIR spectroscopy was conducted to monitor the loss of bulk Si-O vibrational modes corresponding to the removal of SiO2. FTIR was also used to monitor surface species during each ALE half cycle and to verify self-limiting behavior. X-ray reflectivity experiments were conducted to establish etch rates on thermal oxide silicon wafers.