The influence of alloying on the phase formation sequence of ultra-thin nickel silicide films and on the inheritance of texture
The controlled formation of silicide materials is an ongoing challenge to facilitate the electrical contact of Si-based transistors. Due to the ongoing miniaturisation of the transistor, the silicide is trending to ever-thinner thickness's. The corresponding increase in surface-to-volume ratio emphasises the importance of low-energetic interfaces. Intriguingly, the thickness reduction of nickel silicides results in an abrupt change in phase sequence. This paper investigates the sequence of the silicides phases and their preferential orientation with respect to the Si(001) substrate, for both "thin" (i.e., 9 nm) and "ultra-thin" (i.e., 3 nm) Ni films. Furthermore, as the addition of ternary elements is often considered in order to tailor the silicides' properties, additives of Al, Co, and Pt are also included in this study. Our results show that the first silicide formed is epitaxial θ-Ni2Si, regardless of initial thickness or alloyed composition. The transformations towards subsequent silicides are changed through the additive elements, which can be understood through solubility arguments and classical nucleation theory. The crystalline alignment of the formed silicides with the substrate significantly differs through alloying. The observed textures of sequential silicides could be linked through texture inheritance. Our study illustrates the nucleation of a new phase drive to reduce the interfacial energy at the silicide-substrate interface as well as at the interface with the silicide which is being consumed for these sub-10 nm thin films.