Solid-state dewetting of single- and bilayer Au-W thin films: unraveling the role of individual layer thickness, stacking sequence and oxidation on morphology evolution
Self-assembly of ultrathin Au, W, and Au-W bilayer thin films is investigated using a rapid thermal annealing technique in an inert ambient. The solid-state dewetting of Aufilms is briefly revisited in order to emphasize the role of initial film thickness. W films deposited onto SiO2 evolve into needle-like nanocrystals rather than forming particle-like agglomerates upon annealing at elevated temperatures. Transmission electron microscopy reveals that such nanocrystals actually consist of tungsten (VI) oxide (WO3) which is related to an anisotropic oxide crystal growth out of the thin film. The evolution of W films is highly sensitive to the presence of any residual oxygen. Combination of both the dewetting of Au and the oxide crystal growth of WO3 is realized by using various bilayer film configurations of the immiscible Au and W. At low temperature, Au dewetting is initiated while oxide crystal growth is still suppressed. Depending on the stacking sequence of the Au-W bilayer thin film, W acts either as a substrate or as a passivation layer for the dewetting of Au. Being the ground layer, W changes the wettability of Au which clearly modifies its initial state for the dewetting. Being the top layer, W prevents Au from dewetting regardless of Aufilm thickness. Moreover, regular pattern formation of Au-WO3 nanoparticles is observed at high temperature demonstrating how bilayer thin film dewetting can create unique nanostructure arrangements.