Growth of hydrogenated amorphous silicon films (a-Si:H) on an initial H-terminated Si(001)(2×1) substrate at T=500 K was studied through molecular-dynamics (MD) simulations of repeated impingement of SiH radicals to elucidate the effects of reactive minority species on the structural quality of the deposited films. The important reactions contributing to film growth were identified through detailed visualization of radical–surface interaction trajectories. These reactions include (i) insertion of SiH into Si–Si bonds, (ii) adsorption onto surface dangling bonds, (iii) surface H abstraction by impinging SiH radicals through an Eley–Rideal mechanism, (iv) surface adsorption by penetration into subsurface layers or dissociation leading to interstitial atomic hydrogen, (v) desorption of interstitial hydrogen into the gas phase, (vi) formation of higher surface hydrides through the exchange of hydrogen, and (vii) dangling-bond-mediated dissociation of surface hydrides into monohydrides. The MD simulations of a-Si:H film growth predict an overall surface reaction probability of 95% for the SiH radical that is in good agreement with experimental measurements. Structural and chemical characterization of the deposited films was based on the detailed analysis of evolution of the films’ structure, surface morphology and roughness, surface reactivity, and surface composition. The analysis revealed that the deposited films exhibit high dangling bond densities and rough surface morphologies. In addition, the films are abundant in voids and columnar structures that are detrimental to producing device-quality a-Si:H thin films.

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