Early stages of polycrystalline diamond deposition: laser reflectance at substrates with growing nanodiamonds†
The chemical vapor deposition of polycrystalline diamond (PCD) films is typically done on substrates seeded with diamond nanoparticles. Specular laser reflectance has been used in tandem with a continuous film model to monitor the thickness of these films during their deposition. However, approaches to gain information on properties that strongly affect film morphology, such as the areal density of seeds, remain largely unexplored. This work outlines a strategy for using laser reflectance measurements to refine the monitoring of film thickness during deposition, estimate the mean equivalent radii and the areal density of seeds, and estimate growth incubation periods. We present a general model based on the Rayleigh theory of scattering for laser reflectance at substrates with growing nanoparticles that captures the early stages of PCD deposition. We test our model experimentally by depositing diamond under identical conditions on silicon substrates with various seed densities and by comparing seed densities obtained by scanning electron microscopy to those determined by our strategy. We also explore the different deposition stages for which our model and a continuous film model can be used safely. In addition to providing guidelines for characterizing PCD deposition, this work may also advance the general understanding of nanoparticle growth and formation.