The surface roughness is an important parameter in determining the physical properties and quality of thin films deposited by physical vapor deposition (PVD) method. The presence of an intermediate layer between metallic nanoparticles and substrate significantly promotes the adhesion and reduces the surface roughness. In this article, we have investigated the effect of Chromium (Cr) seed layer to optimize the surface roughness on the growth of as-deposited silver (Ag) film using borosilicate glass and silicon wafer substrates. For this purpose, Ag thin films were deposited with a Cr seed layer of different thickness on borosilicate glass and silicon wafer substrates using an electron beam (E-Beam) deposition method. The Cr thin film of different thickness ranging from 1 nm to 6 nm was thermally evaporated and pure Ag with the same thickness was evaporated at the same rate on previously coated substrates. The deposition of the nanostructured thin film was confirmed by UV-Vis and XRD characterizations. The difference in transmittance for uncoated and coated substrates ensured the deposition. The presence of pure Ag crystalline phase was confirmed by XRD pattern. Surface roughness was measured using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and the conductance was measured using 4-probe conductivity method. The density of nanoparticles and smoothness were visualized from two dimensional (2D) and three dimensional (3D) surface height histograms of representative AFM images. The quantitative roughness was measured in terms of root mean square (RMS) roughness and mean roughness. The high dense and smoother thin films were found for ~2-4 nm Cr layer thickness in case of the glass substrate. The slight increase in roughness was observed for ~1-6 nm Cr layer thickness in case of the silicon substrate. The dependence of the conductivity of thin films on surface roughness is investigated to verify the effect of surface roughness on different applications of Ag thin film. The conductance results have been analyzed as; for a glass substrate, conductivity was maximum for thin films containing ~2 nm Cr seed layer thickness, while for silicon substrate the maximum conductivity was found for the thin film containing ~1 nm Cr seed layer.

Naseem Abbas, Muzamil Hussain, Nida Zahra, Hassaan Ahmad, Syed Muhammad Zain Mehdi, Uzair Sajjad and Mohammed Amer