The ZrO2thin film is deposited by means of a reactive radio frequency diode sputtering from an elemental zirconium target in an argon—oxygen mixture gas. The influence of the deposition process parameters on the microinstructure, composition, film stress, and refractive index is investigated. It is noted that the process parameters, in particular substrate bias, have a profound effect on the structure and properties. The possible mechanism, in terms of bombardment of energetic particles and adatom mobility on the film surface, is discussed. © 1990, American Vacuum Society. All rights reserved.