A thickness variation of only one Ångström makes a significant difference in the current through a tunnel junction due to the exponential thickness dependence of the current. It is thus important to achieve a uniform thickness along the barrier to enhance, for example, the sensitivity and speed of single electron transistors based on the tunnel junctions. Here, we have observed that grooves at Al grain boundaries are associated with a local increase of tunnel barrier thickness. The uniformity of the barrier thickness along the tunnel junction thus increases with increasing Al grain size. We have studied the effect of oxidation time, partial oxygen pressure and also temperature during film growth on the grain size. The implications are that the uniformity improves with higher temperature during film growth.
Nik, S., Krantz, P., Zeng, L., Greibe, T., Pettersson, H., Gustafsson, S., … Olsson, E. (2016). Correlation between Al grain size, grain boundary grooves and local variations in oxide barrier thickness of Al/AlOx/Al tunnel junctions by transmission electron microscopy. SpringerPlus, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40064-016-2418-8