Electronic structure of carbon nitride thin films studied by X-ray spectroscopy techniques

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Magnetron-sputtered carbon nitride thin films with different structures and compositions were analyzed by X-ray and ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS and UPS), near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (NEXAFS), as well as X-ray emission spectroscopy (XES). In all techniques, the carbon spectra are broad and featureless with little variation depending on growth conditions. The nitrogen spectra, on the other hand, show more distinct features, providing a powerful tool for structural characterization. By comparing the experimental spectra with calculations on different model systems, we are able to identify three major bonding structures of the nitrogen N1: nitrile (C =N) bonds; N2: Pyridine-like N, i.e., N bonded to two C atoms; and N3: graphite-like N, i.e., N bonded to three C atoms as if substituted in a graphitic network, however, possibly positioned in a pentagon and/or with sp3 carbon neighbors. The presence of N2 and N3 are best detected by XPS, while N1 is better detected by NEXAFS. The calculated XES spectra also give good indications how valence band spectra should be interpreted. Films grown at the higher temperatures (≥ 350°C) show a pronounced angular dependence of the incoming photon beam in NEXAFS measurements, which suggests a textured microstructure with standing graphitic basal planes, while amorphous films grown at low temperatures show isotropic properties. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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