Structure of superconducting MgB2 thin films prepared by vacuum evaporation and ex-situ annealing in Ar and O-2 atmospheres

ROCH, Tomáš – GREGOR, Maroš – ŠVEC, Peter, Jr. – PLECENÍK, Tomáš – SATRAPINSKYY, Leonid – ČAPLOVIČOVÁ, Mária – BYSTRICKÝ, Roman – KÚŠ, Peter – PLECENÍK, Andrej

In Applied Surface Science. Vol. 461, (2018)


Superconducting MgB2 thin films were fabricated on c-cut sapphire substrates by vacuum co-evaporation of magnesium and boron followed by an ex situ post-annealing. We show that annealing in oxygen atmosphere can significantly improve the superconducting properties of the MgB2 thin films compared to the typical annealing in argon atmosphere. In this work, influence of the ex-situ annealing atmosphere on the structure, texture and morphology of the superconducting MgB2 thin films has been studied by transmission electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and pole figure measurements. Samples annealed at 800 °C in Ar, at 800 °C in O2 and at 500 °C in O2 have been compared. The annealing in O2 at 800 °C produces MgB2 thin films with the highest superconducting transition temperature and critical current density. We show that this is thanks to the thickest MgO layer at the surface produced in this case, which acts as a protecting barrier against out-diffusion of Mg during the annealing and leads to better stoichiometry and larger MgB2 grains compared to the samples annealed in Ar. Our method can be alternative to the customary ex-situ post annealing of Mg-B precursor in sealed vapor cell. In all samples, the MgB2 phase showed single axis texture with the (0 0 0 1) planes slightly inclined by 0° to 15° with respect to the Al2O3(0 0 0 1) substrate surface incurred with the initial precursor evaporation geometry. During the annealing, the excess Mg also reacts with the Al2O3 substrate and minor MgAl2O4 and MgO phases are produced at the substrate-layer interface.