Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 54, Issue 7, pp 5236–5248 | Cite as

A revisit to atomic layer deposition of zinc oxide using diethylzinc and water as precursors

  • Jiyu Cai
  • Zhiyuan Ma
  • Uche Wejinya
  • Min Zou
  • Yuzi LiuEmail author
  • Hua ZhouEmail author
  • Xiangbo MengEmail author


Nanophase zinc oxide (ZnO) has been widely studied as an important multifunctional material in many applications. Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a unique thin-film synthesis technique, featuring its extreme uniformity, unrivaled conformal coverage, low deposition temperature, and precise controllability. Using diethylzinc (DEZ) and water as precursors, ALD has been reported previously for growing nanophase ZnO thin films. However, the growth characteristics and the resultant ZnO crystallinity have not been well characterized and understood. To this end, we revisited the ALD process of ZnO using DEZ and water. Through employing a suite of advanced characterization techniques, we systematically addressed the growth characteristics, morphological changes, and the crystallinity evolution of ZnO along with growth temperature in the range of 30–250 °C. The growth characteristics of the ALD ZnO films were investigated using in situ quartz crystal microbalance (QCM), scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and synchrotron-based X-ray reflectivity. The crystallinity of the ALD ZnO films was determined using synchrotron-based X-ray diffraction and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy. In addition, through further analyzing QCM data, we proposed the adsorption-limited surface reaction for ALD ZnO growth with the temperature-dependent number of –OH surface group reacting with one DEZ molecule. Thus, this study contributes to offer new and deep insights on the fundamental ALD process of ZnO.



XM, JC, and MZ acknowledge the partial support from the Center for Advanced Surface Engineering, under the National Science Foundation Grant No. OIA-1457888 and the Arkansas EPSCoR Program, ASSET III. XM and JC also appreciate the financial research support from University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, USA. This work was performed, in part, at the Advanced Photon Source and Center for Nanoscale Materials, both belonging to US Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility, and supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare no conflicts of interest in this paper.

Supplementary material

10853_2018_3260_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.5 mb)
Figures SI 1–6 in the enclosed manuscript. (DOCX 1576 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA
  2. 2.The Center for Advanced Surface EngineeringUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA
  3. 3.Advanced Photon SourceArgonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA
  4. 4.Department of Materials and EngineeringChina University of PetroleumBeijingChina
  5. 5.Center for Nanoscale MaterialsArgonne National LaboratoryArgonneUSA

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