Journal of Materials Research

The role of ion-beam cleaning in the growth of strained-layer enitaxial thin transition metal films

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Low-energy ion-beam cleaning of the substrates prior to a deposition greatly enhances the quality of ultrathin (< 100 A) refractory superconducting (Nb, V) films. Using this technique Nb films as thin as 7 A have been grown, from which good tunnel junctions have been fabricated. Both the native films and the tunnel junctions are sturdy and can be thermally recycled without any degradation. In-situ surface study along with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) results suggest the removal of the carbon atoms from the surface of the substrate without an apparent surface damage as the causes of the improvement. The TEM results indicate that the Nb films grow perfectly lattice matched to the sapphire substrate when the substrate is ion-beam cleaned. This strained-layer epitaxy is observed up to 40 A, the maximum thickness investigated through TEM. © 1987, Materials Research Society. All rights reserved.