In this study, the impact of moisture on the electrical characteristics of an amorphous In-Ga-Zn-O thin-film transistor (a-IGZO TFT) was investigated. In commercial applications of such TFTs, high stability and quality performance in humid environments are essential. During TFT operation under ambient moisture, the electrolysis of water molecules occurs via the tip electric field effect. Hydrogen diffuses from the etch-stop layer or back-channel into the main channel under a negative electric field. The hydrogen atoms act as shallow donors (which causes the carrier concentration in the channel to rise), causing the threshold voltage (VTH) to shift in the negative direction. Hydrogen diffusion from the overlap of the source/drain and gate electrodes to the channel center caused by the tip electric field induces a significant barrier lowering and VTH shifts in a short-channel device. However, under negative bias stress (NBS) in ambient moisture, the negative VTH shift is more obvious in short- than in long-channel devices, indicating suppressed hydrogen diffusion in long-channel devices. This is attributed to the electrolysis of water by the tip electric field at the source, drain, and gate electrodes, which causes hydrogen to diffuse to the center of the channel. Here, a novel physical model of the capacitance-voltage (C-V) electrical property changes under ambient moisture is proposed, based on the early appearance of abnormalities in the C-V measurements. The electrolysis of water caused by the tip electric field and electrical abnormalities caused by hydrogen diffusion into the a-IGZO active layer are explained by this model. A secondary-ion mass spectrometry analysis shows that hydrogen content in the channel generally increases under NBS in ambient moisture. The degradation behavior due to moisture in a-IGZO is clarified. Thus, inhibiting the tip electric field may benefit future flexible-display and gas-sensing applications.
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