Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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ZnO thin-film optimization towards the fabrication of high-frequency ultrasound transducers

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posted on 2021-11-22, 09:35 authored by Sinno, Ihab

Zinc oxide is a popular wide bandgap semiconductor material with versatile electrical and optical properties. In its wurtzite crystal form, this semiconductor is piezoelectric, and has material properties that make it an attractive candidate for fabricating high frequency ultrasound transducers. This thesis describes the development of an RF sputtering process for creating zinc oxide films with thicknesses ranging from 3μm to 10μm, aiming for transducer frequencies of 300MHz to 1 GHz. Sputtering parameters are optimized to meet the dual requirements of a c-axis film orientation while maintaining a high deposition rate. These constraints and the dimensional characteristics of the utilized sputtering system, such as the short substrate-to-target distance, introduce high levels of strain in the deposited zinc oxide films. Various anneal procedures are developed to reduce film strain and optimize the resulting microstructure. It is found that annealing temperatures > 600°C eliminate the inherent film strain, but simultaneously result in the dewetting of the bottom metal contact, making this thermal treatment unsuitable for device processing. As an alternative to traditional metal contacts used in ultrasound transducers, the use of highly doped zinc oxide contacts is then investigated. It is shown that aluminium doped zinc oxide contacts provide an improved seed layer for device growth while eliminating the dewetting problems associated with metal contacts at high anneal temperatures. In addition, the use of such transparent conductive oxide contacts can lead to novel ultrasound applications, which benefit from the integration of optical and acoustic imaging in a single lens. A proof of concept all-zinc oxide single element ultrasound transducer structure is finally fabricated, to highlight the potential of an integrated optical-acoustic lens design.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure Basic Research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Engineering and Computer Science


Grouws, Gideon; Moore, Ciaran