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    Diffusion studies in toughenable low-E coatings

    Kulczyk-Malecka, Justyna (2012) Diffusion studies in toughenable low-E coatings. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    Low emissivity (Low-E) coatings are applied to large area architectural glazing to reduce heat losses from buildings. They combine high visible transparency with high reflectance in the far-infrared region. To achieve this combination of properties, Low-E coatings generally consist of dielectric-silver-dielectric multi-layer systems or stacks, where the thin (~10 nm) silver layer reflects long wavelength IR back into the building and the dielectric layers both protect the silver and act as anti-reflectance layers. The dielectric layers are commonly TiO2, SnO2 or ZnO, and all the layers are usually deposited by magnetron sputtering. The market for Low-E coatings has grown considerably in recent years due to environmental legislation and increased energy costs. To further expand the market, the next generation of Low-E coatings are increasingly being deposited onto toughenable glass, which is post-deposition annealed at temperatures of up to 650oC. However, under these conditions, silver atoms are highly mobile and can rapidly diffuse through the other constituent layers of the coating stack, which can have a detrimental impact on the performance of the coating. Diffusion in polycrystalline films occurs much faster than in bulk samples and by different mechanisms. This is caused by the physical properties of thin films, which may contain a high density of defects such as dislocations, vacancies and grain boundaries that can act as pathways for diffusion processes. The aim of this project therefore is to carry out a detailed study of diffusion processes in dielectric-silver coating systems deposited under industrially relevant conditions (i.e. using commercially available magnetron designs and power deliver modes). TiO2 coatings have been deposited onto float glass substrates by reactive pulsed magnetron sputtering and characterised using Raman spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy and X-ray diffraction. The coatings have been annealed at temperatures in the range of 100oC to 800oC and re-analysed to determine the effect of annealing on the film structures. An interesting transition from a weakly crystalline rutile-like structure with very small grain sizes to a strongly crystalline anatase structure or mixed-phase structure with much larger grains was observed as annealing temperature was increased. Selected coatings were over coated with silver and annealed for a second time. These coatings were analysed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and secondary ion mass spectrometry to determine the diffusion profiles of silver through the titania layer and the reverse IV diffusion of sodium from the glass substrates. Little difference in the diffusion rate of silver was observed with annealing temperature, but sodium was observed to diffuse significantly faster through samples annealed at higher temperature range. Similar studies have been performed for Al-doped ZnO, Zn2SnO4 and Si3N4 coatings. These films have been post-deposition annealed at 650oC then over coated with silver and re-annealed at 250oC. Diffusion profiles for both Ag and Na atoms were measured using secondary ion mass spectrometry. Finally dielectric/Ag/dielectric layers were deposited to investigate the behaviour of silver and sodium after annealing at 250oC. The basic models of diffusion mechanisms in thin films have been developed using Fick’s second diffusion law. Analytical modelling was used to fit the experimental data into a concentration dependent curve that represents the solution to Fick’s second law. Moreover selected dielectric/Ag/dielectric stacks were subjected to temperature dependency of silver diffusion studies using Arrhenius diffusion principle. Samples were post-deposition annealed at the temperature range of 200-650oC for 5 minutes to investigate silver diffusion at different heat treatment conditions and diffusivity values were used to find activation energies and frequency factors from Arrhenius plot. Overall findings from the diffusion studies are that from dielectric materials investigated in this work Al-doped ZnO coatings have the best barrier properties for silver atoms diffusion and show relatively low values for sodium diffusion, when not annealed at relatively high temperatures. Zinc stannate, on the other hand, was found to be the material through which atoms investigated here diffuse fairly easily. Both silver and sodium atoms were found to have the highest diffusion rates through zinc stannate films relative to the other coatings investigated in this work.

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