Protective coatings for front surface silver mirrors by atomic layer deposition
Published 2019-12-02Version 1
Silver is a metal which provides the highest reflectivity in the very broad wavelength range as well as the lowest polarization splitting. However, it is not very stable chemically and silver mirrors are easily damaged in a corrosive or oxidizing environment, leading first to the drastic drop in reflection followed by the complete disintegration of a silver layer. For this reason aluminum is much more in use. The problem of protection of silver layer is a very important one for number of applications, requiring the front side reflection, such as telescopes mirrors, reflective IR imaging optics, gratings, photovoltaic concentrator mirrors, etc. Atomic layer deposition (ALD) technique using trimethylaluminum (TMA) and water as precursors provides a very efficient way to protect a sensitive surface of silver from a corrosive and oxidizing environment, because ALD coatings can be deposited at rather low temperature. Moreover, ALD layer provides extremely high conformality (even when deposited over high aspect ratio features) and has high integrity, efficiently blocking foreign species diffusion to silver-overcoat interface. In our studies we tested the efficiency of the protection of silver mirrors by ALD-deposited Al2O3 layers against oxygen plasma exposure by correlating the ellipsometric measurements with the absolute reflection measurements and Glow-Discharge Optical Emission Spectroscopy (GD-OES) data. We have found that for optimal protection the thickness of ALD deposited layer should exceed at least 15 nm (about 150 ALD cycles at 150 oC), as thinner layers do not provide reliable protection of silver surface against oxygen plasma. We have also demonstrated that the deposition of 15 nm of a protective ALD-deposited Al2O3 layer does not affect the absolute reflectivity of a silver mirror in a spectral range 300 -2500 nm.