Epitaxial growth of oxide thin films has attracted much interest because of their broad applications in various fields. In this study, we investigated the microstructure of textured Gd2Zr2O7 films grown on (001)〈100〉 orientated NiW alloy substrates by a chemical solution deposition (CSD) method. The aging effect of precursor solution on defect formation was thoroughly investigated. A slight difference was observed between the as-obtained and aged precursor solutions with respect to the phase purity and global texture of films prepared using these solutions. However, the surface morphologies are different, i.e., some regular-shaped regions (mainly hexagonal or dodecagonal) were observed on the film prepared using the as-obtained precursor, whereas the film prepared using the aged precursor exhibits a homogeneous structure. Electron backscatter diffraction and scanning electron microscopy analyses showed that the Gd2Zr2O7 grains present within the regular-shaped regions are polycrystalline, whereas those present in the surrounding are epitaxial. Some polycrystalline regions ranging from several micrometers to several tens of micrometers grew across the NiW grain boundaries underneath. To understand this phenomenon, the properties of the precursors and corresponding xerogel were studied by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and coupled thermogravimetry/differential thermal analysis. The results showed that both the solutions mainly contain small Gd[sbnd]Zr[sbnd]O clusters obtained by the reaction of zirconium acetylacetonate with propionic acid during the precursor synthesis. The regular-shaped regions were probably formed by large Gd[sbnd]Zr[sbnd]O frameworks with a metastable structure in the solution with limited aging time. This study demonstrates the importance of the precise control of chemical reaction path to enhance the stability and homogeneity of the precursors of the CSD route.
- High temperature superconductors
- Surface morphology
- Electron backscattering diffraction
- Epitaxial growth
- Chemical solution deposition method