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10, OCTOBER 2010 1137

One-Shadow-Mask Self-Assembled Ultralow-Voltage

Coplanar Homojunction Thin-Film Transistors
Aixia Lu, Jia Sun, Jie Jiang, and Qing Wan

Abstract—A self-assembling diffraction method is developed For silicon microelectronics, a mobile ion leads to many un-
for low-voltage coplanar homojunction thin-film transistor (TFT) desirable electrical behaviors. However, for low-cost portable
fabrication. In this one-shadow-mask process, a channel layer can electronics such as sensors, switching speeds are measured
be simultaneously self-assembled between indium-tin-oxide (ITO) in hertz rather than gigahertz, and the figures of merit are
source/drain electrodes during magnetron sputtering deposition.
When a microporous SiO2 -based solid electrolyte is used as the low voltage and cost reduction. By these metrics, the ion gel
gate dielectric, full-depletion-mode ITO TFTs show an ultralow dielectrics and microporous SiO2 -based solid electrolyte di-
operation voltage of 1.5 V due to the large specific capacitance electrics look intriguing [13]. In this letter, we develop a simple
(4.44 µF/cm2 ). A small subthreshold swing of 0.12 V/decade and self-assembling diffraction method for low-voltage indium-tin-
a large on/off ratio of 106 are obtained. Our results demonstrate oxide (ITO) coplanar homojunction TFT fabrication. These
that such a simple one-mask self-assembling method is promising TFTs operate at low voltage (<1.5 V) with a low subthreshold
for low-cost TFT fabrication. swing of 0.12 V/decade and a large on/off ratio of 106 .
Index Terms—Coplanar homojunction, low-voltage transistors,
self-assembled channel.
I. I NTRODUCTION The schematic diagram of the process for self-assembled
ITO-based coplanar homojunction TFT fabrication is shown in
I N ORDER to form a patterned channel layer and
source/drain electrodes for thin-film transistors (TFTs), pho-
tolithography and shadow mask methods were adopted [1]–[3].
Fig. 1(a). First, a microporous SiO2 -based solid electrolyte was
deposited on ITO/glass substrates by a PECVD method using
SiH4 and O2 as reactive gases. Second, the ITO source/drain
However, at least two masks are required in these methods for
electrodes were deposited through a nickel shadow mask by
the bottom-gate TFT fabrication. Up to now, no one reported
RF magnetron sputtering in pure argon ambient at 0.5 Pa. The
the fabrication of coplanar homojunction TFTs with a self-
shadow mask was placed closely above the SiO2 /ITO/glass sub-
assembled patterned channel layer by only one mask. The
strate with a distance of 50 µm. The sputtered ITO nanoclusters
coplanar homojunction TFTs show excellent characteristics
will diffract into the shadow regions of the nickel mask; there-
with a low series resistance without any difficulty in making
fore, a thin ITO channel layer will be self-assembled between
a good electrical contact between source/drain electrodes and
ITO source/drain electrodes simultaneously. The channel length
channel layers [4], [5].
and width-to-length ratio of the shadow mask were 80 µm and
At the same time, low-voltage operation is desirable for
12.5:1, respectively. The entire process of the device fabrication
portable applications. To reduce the operation voltage, de-
was performed at room temperature. The top-view optical
creasing the thickness of the dielectric film is the simplest
image of a self-assembled ITO TFT is shown in Fig. 1(b), which
approach [6], [7]. High-k gate dielectric [8], [9] and polymer
was obtained by an optical microscope (Olympus DX51). The
electrolytes/ionic liquids [10], [11] were also used to reduce
structural characterization of the microporous SiO2 and ITO
the operation voltage. In our previous work, microporous
films was investigated by field emission scanning electron
SiO2 -based solid electrolytes with a large electric-double-layer
microscopy (Hitachi S-4800 SEM). The electrical characteriza-
(EDL) capacitance were used as the gate dielectric for low-
tions of the microporous SiO2 dielectric and ITO-based TFTs
voltage oxide-based TFTs [12].
were investigated by an impedance analyzer (WK 6500B) and
a semiconductor parameter analyzer (Keithley 4200 SCS) at
Manuscript received July 3, 2010; accepted July 18, 2010. Date of publica-
tion August 16, 2010; date of current version September 24, 2010. This work
room temperature in dark with a relative humidity of 60%.
was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China
under Grant 10874042, by the Foundation for the Author of National Excellent
Doctoral Dissertation of China under Grant 200752, and by the Key Project of III. R ESULTS AND D ISCUSSION
the Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang province under Grant 0804201051.
The review of this letter was arranged by Editor J. K. O. Sin. Fig. 1(c) shows a cross-sectional SEM image of the SiO2
A. Lu and Q. Wan are with the Ningbo Institute of Material Technology dielectric, and a microporous structure with high-density
and Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ningbo 315201, China, and nanoparticles was observed clearly. Fig. 1(d) and (e) shows
also with the Key Laboratory for Micro–Nano Optoelectronic Devices of the
Ministry of Education, Hunan University, Changsha 410082, China (e-mail:
the cross-sectional SEM images of the ITO channel layer and the ITO electrode, respectively. The thinnest part of the ITO
J. Sun and J. Jiang are with the Ningbo Institute of Material Technology and channel is estimated to be ∼30 nm. The thickness of the ITO
Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ningbo 315201, China. source/drain electrodes is estimated to be ∼150 nm. The thick-
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this letter are available online
at ness of the ITO channel will change from 30 nm in the middle
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/LED.2010.2061834 to 150 nm near the electrode because it was deposited by

0741-3106/$26.00 © 2010 IEEE


Fig. 1. (a) Schematic diagram of the process for a self-assembled ITO

coplanar homojunction TFT. (b) Top view of a self-assembled ITO coplanar
homojunction TFT. (c) Cross-sectional SEM image of the microporous SiO2
dielectric (scale bar: 100 nm). (d) Cross-sectional SEM image of the thinnest
part of the ITO channel. (e) Cross-sectional SEM image of the ITO source/drain

Fig. 3. (a) Electrical characteristics of the self-assembled coplanar homo-

junction ITO TFT. Output characteristics of the device. Vds was swept from
0 to 1.0 V at each Vgs varied from −0.7 to 0 V at 0.1-V steps. (b) Transfer
characteristics (drain-to-source current Ids versus gate voltage Vgs and the
square root of Ids versus Vgs ) at Vds = 1.5 V.

shown in Fig. 2. At the low-frequency region (f < 10 kHz),

the observed variation of conductivity with frequency is due
to the electrode polarization effects at the ITO electrode and
microporous SiO2 interfaces [14]. Therefore, as the frequency
decreases, more and more charge accumulation occurs at the
Fig. 2. Frequency dependence of the capacitance (20 Hz–1 MHz) for the ITO/SiO2 interface, which leads to a drop in conductivity at a
microporous SiO2 gate dielectric and frequency dependence of the ionic low frequency. In the intermediate-frequency region, the ionic
conductivity for the microporous SiO2 solid electrolyte.
conductivity is almost found to be frequency independent. This
a diffraction method. Although the ITO electrodes and ITO ionic conductivity at intermediate frequencies originates from
channel layer were deposited in the same condition and have the the migration of dissociated protons in the microporous SiO2
same chemical composition, Hall effect measurement results dielectric. At high frequencies (f > 100 kHz), closer to the
indicate that the resistivity of the ITO film is thickness depen- dipolar relaxation time, the mobility of the charge carriers is
dent. The resistivities of the ITO films with 30 and 150 nm high, and hence, the ionic conductivity of microporous SiO2
are measured to be 1.17 × 10−3 and 6.46 × 10−4 Ω · cm, re- increases with frequencies. Similar behavior was reported for
spectively. The carrier concentrations of the ITO films with 30 other solid electrolytes, which were an electronically insulating
and 150 nm in thickness are estimated to be 3.04 × 1021 /cm3 and ionically conducting dielectric [15], [16].
and 3.57 × 1021 /cm3 , respectively. Fig. 3(a) shows the output (Ids –Vds ) characteristics of the
Fig. 2 shows the specific capacitance of the microporous self-assembled coplanar homojunction ITO TFT. The ITO TFT
SiO2 film in the frequency range of 20 Hz–1 MHz using an shows an ultralow operation voltage of <1.5 V due to the
ITO/SiO2 /ITO sandwich structure. The capacitance increases huge EDL capacitance of microporous SiO2 . Vds was swept
with decreasing frequency and reaches ∼ 4.44 µF/cm2 at from 0 to 1.0 V at each Vgs changed from −0.7 to 0 V at
20 Hz (the lowest frequency of WK 6500B). The main con- 0.1-V steps, which showed n-channel behavior operating in
tribution to the capacitance at low frequencies is interpreted full depletion mode. There were only a few reports on full-
to be the response of the EDL formed at the SiO2 /ITO chan- depletion-mode TFTs, despite the obvious need for transis-
nel interface [12]. To further investigate the solid-electrolyte tors to work in both enhancement and depletion modes [17].
behavior of the microporous SiO2 , the frequency-dependent As shown in Fig. 3(b), the transfer curves (log Ids –Vgs and
curve of ionic conductivity for the microporous SiO2 is also Ids –Vgs ) show a low off current of ∼0.1 nA, and a high-current

In summary, we have developed a simple self-assembling
method for ITO-based coplanar homojunction TFT fabrication
at room temperature with only one metal shadow mask. An
ultralow operation voltage of 1.5 V is realized due to the large
specific gate capacitance (4.44 µF/cm2 ) of the microporous
SiO2 -based solid electrolyte. The self-assembled ITO TFT
exhibits a good performance with a low subthreshold swing of
0.12 V/decade and a large on/off ratio of 106 . This one-shadow-
mask self-assembling method is promising for low-cost TFT

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