A Statistical Method to Optimize the Chemical Etching Process of Zinc Oxide Thin Films

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Zinc oxide (ZnO) is an attractive material for microscale and nanoscale devices. Its desirable semiconductor, piezoelectric and optical properties make it useful in applications ranging from microphones to missile warning systems to biometric sensors. This work introduces a demonstration of blending statistics and chemical etching of thin films to identify the dominant factors and interaction between factors, and develop statistically enhanced models on etch rate and selectivity of c-axis-oriented nanocrystalline ZnO thin films. Over other mineral acids, ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) solutions have commonly been used to wet etch microscale ZnO devices because of their controllable etch rate and near-linear behaviour. Etchant concentration and temperature were found to have a significant effect on etch rate. Moreover, this is the first demonstration that has identified multi-factor interactions between temperature and concentration, and between temperature and agitation. A linear model was developed relating etch rate and its variance against these significant factors and multi-factor interactions. An average selectivity of 73 : 1 was measured with none of the experimental factors having a significant effect on the selectivity. This statistical study captures the significant variance observed by other researchers. Furthermore, it enables statistically enhanced microfabrication processes for other materials.


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Royal Society Open Science