The purpose of this study is to understand the basic mechanisms responsible for the synthesis of nanostructured diamond films in a microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition (MPCVD) process and to identify plasma chemistry suitable for controlling the morphology and electrical properties of deposited films. The nanostructured diamond films were synthesized by MPCVD on Ti-6Al-4V alloy substrates using H₂/CH₄/N₂ precursor gases and the plasma chemistry was monitored by the optical emission spectroscopy (OES). The synthesized thin-films were characterized by x-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy. The addition of B₂H₆ to the feedgas during MPCVD of diamond thin-films changes the crystal grain size from nanometer to micron scale. Nanostructured diamond films grown with H₂/CH₄/N₂ gases demonstrate a broad (111) Bragg x-ray diffraction peak (Full-Width at Half-Maximum (FWHM) = 0.93° 2θ), indicating a small grain size, whereas scans show a definite sharpening of the diamond (111) peak (FWHM = 0.30° 2θ) with the addition of boron. OES showed a decrease in CN (carbon-nitrogen) radical in the plasma with B₂H₆ addition to the gas mixture. Our study indicates that CN radical plays a critical role in the synthesis of nanostructured diamond films and suppression of CN radical by boron-addition in the plasma causes a morphological transition to microcrystalline diamond.
Keywords: microcrystalline diamond; microwave plasma deposition; nanostructured diamond; optical emission spectroscopy; x-ray diffraction.