Tungsten nitride (WNx) thin films were deposited by reactively sputtering a pure W target in an argon/nitrogen atmosphere. The nitrogen concentration in the growth chamber was varied from 2% to 60%. Film growth and properties were studied as a function of nitrogen concentration in the films. The cathode current and voltage variations during the film growth indicated cathode poisoning when the nitrogen concentration in the chamber was in the range of 2%–5%. This poisoning was accompanied by a reduced film growth rate. However, both the cathode current and deposition rate decrease were small due to the low resistivity and similar sputter yield of the WNx phase formed at the surface of the target and pure W. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analyses showed that the films were composed of ∼33 at. % nitrogen when the nitrogen concentration in the chamber was greater than 10%. X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis confirmed that the films were predominantly W2N with the characteristic (111) peak at 2θ=37.7°. Slight shifts in the (111) peak position were due to excess nitrogen incorporation in interstitial positions, which caused lattice distortions. Postdeposition annealing removed the excess interstitial nitrogen and the XRD peaks shifted closer to the characteristic value.

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