ZrN diffusion barrier films were prepared by DC reactive magnetron sputtering under different negative substrate bias. The composition, microstructure, resistivity and diffusion barrier properties of ZrN films, with respect to substrate bias, were studied by means of X-ray diffraction, electron probe microanalyzer, Auger electron spectroscopy, and four point probe method. Results showed that the deposition rate and impurity oxygen content of ZrN films were substantially influenced by the resputtering effects due to the ion bombardment on the film surface. The competition between surface energy and strain energy made the preferred orientation of ZrN films change from (1 1 1) to (2 0 0) and then back to highly (1 1 1) preferred orientation as a function of substrate bias. The application of negative substrate bias could effectively decrease the electrical resistivity due to the decrease of impurity oxygen content and the densification of films, resulting from the moderate-energy ion irradiation. The biased ZrN films could successfully be used as a diffusion barrier layer, between Cu and SiO2, even up to the high temperature of 800 °C for 30 min.
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