Conspectus The deposition of thin solid films is central to many industrial applications, and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) methods are particularly useful for this task. For one, the isotropic nature of the adsorption of chemical species affords even coverages on surfaces with rough topographies, an increasingly common requirement in microelectronics. Furthermore, by splitting the overall film-depositing reactions into two or more complementary and self-limiting steps, as it is done in atomic layer depositions (ALD), film thicknesses can be controlled down to the sub-monolayer level. Thanks to the availability of a vast array of inorganic and metalorganic precursors, CVD and ALD are quite versatile and can be engineered to deposit virtually any type of solid material. On the negative side, the surface chemistry that takes place in these processes is often complex, and can include undesirable side reactions leading to the incorporation of impurities in the growing films. Appropriate precursors and deposition conditions need to be chosen to minimize these problems, and that requires a proper understanding of the underlying surface chemistry. The precursors for CVD and ALD are often designed and chosen based on their known thermal chemistry from inorganic chemistry studies, taking advantage of the vast knowledge developed in that field over the years. Although a good first approximation, however, this approach can lead to wrong choices, because the reactions of these precursors at gas-solid interfaces can be quite different from what is seen in solution. For one, solvents often aid in the displacement of ligands in metalorganic compounds, providing the right dielectric environment, temporarily coordinating to the metal, or facilitating multiple ligand-complex interactions to increase reaction probabilities; these options are not available in the gas-solid reactions associated with CVD and ALD. Moreover, solid surfaces act as unique "ligands", if these reactions are to be viewed from the point of view of the metalorganic complexes used as precursors: they are bulky and rigid, can provide multiple binding sites for a single reaction, and can promote unique bonding modes, especially on metals, which have delocalized electronic structures. The differences between the molecular and surface chemistry of CVD and ALD precursors can result in significant variations in their reactivity, ultimately leading to unpredictable properties in the newly grown films. In this Account, we discuss some of the main similarities and differences in chemistry that CVD/ALD precursors follow on surfaces when contrasted against their known behavior in solution, with emphasis on our own work but also referencing other key contributions. Our approach is unique in that it combines expertise from the inorganic, surface science, and quantum-mechanics fields to better understand the mechanistic details of the chemistry of CVD and ALD processes and to identify new criteria to consider when designing CVD/ALD precursors.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL
Journal Accounts of Chemical Research
Barry, S.T, Teplyakov, A.V. (Andrew V.), & Zaera, F. (Francisco). (2018). The Chemistry of Inorganic Precursors during the Chemical Deposition of Films on Solid Surfaces. Accounts of Chemical Research, 51(3), 800–809. doi:10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00012