Chemical bonding in epitaxial ZrB2 studied by X-ray spectroscopy

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The chemical bonding in an epitaxial ZrB2 film is investigated by Zr K-edge (1s) X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopies and compared to the ZrB2 compound target from which the film was synthesized as well as a bulk α-Zr reference. Quantitative analysis of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy spectra reveals at the surface: ~5% O in the epitaxial ZrB2 film, ~19% O in the ZrB2 compound target and ~22% O in the bulk α-Zr reference after completed sputter cleaning. For the ZrB2 compound target, X-ray diffraction (XRD) shows weak but visible 1¯11, 111, and 220 peaks from monoclinic ZrO2 together with peaks from ZrB2 and where the intensity distribution for the ZrB2 peaks show a randomly oriented target material. For the bulk α-Zr reference no peaks from any crystalline oxide were visible in the diffractogram recorded from the metal with preferred 0001-orientation. The Zr K-edge absorption from the two ZrB2 samples demonstrate more pronounced oscillations for the epitaxial ZrB2 film than in the bulk ZrB2 attributed to the high atomic ordering within the columns of the film. The XANES exhibits no pre-peak due to lack of p-d hybridization in ZrB2, but with a chemical shift towards higher energy of 4 eV in the film and 6 eV for the bulk compared to α-Zr (17.993 keV) from the charge-transfer from Zr to B. The 2 eV larger shift in bulk ZrB2 material suggests higher oxygen content than in the epitaxial film, which is supported by XPS. In EXAFS, the modeled cell-edge in ZrB2 is slightly smaller for the film (a = 3.165 Å, c = 3.520 Å) when compared to the bulk target material (a = 3.175 Å, c = 3.540 Å) and for the hexagonal closest-packed metal (α-phase, a = 3.254 Å, c = 5.147 Å). The modeled coordination numbers show that the EXAFS spectra of the epitaxial ZrB2 film is highly anisotropic with strong in-plane contribution, while the bulk target material is more isotropic. The Zr-B distance in the film of 2.539 Å is in agreement with the calculated value from XRD data of 2.542 Å. This is slightly shorter compared to that in the ZrB2 compound target 2.599 Å, supporting the XANES results of a higher atomic order within the columns of the film compared to bulk ZrB2.




Magnuson, M., Tengdelius, L., Greczynski, G., Hultman, L., & Högberg, H. (2018). Chemical bonding in epitaxial ZrB2 studied by X-ray spectroscopy. Thin Solid Films, 649, 89–96.

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