Transport at Nanoscale Interfaces Laboratory

Effects of gamma irradiations on reactive pulsed laser deposited vanadium dioxide thin films

Madiba, I.G., Émond, N., Chaker, M., Thema, F.T., Tadadjeu, S.I., Muller, U., Zolliker, P., Braun, A.,Kotsedi, L., Maaza, M.

 Applied Surface Science, 411, 271-278.



Vanadium oxide films are considered suitable coatings for various applications such as thermal protective coating of small spacecrafts because of their thermochromic properties. While in outer space, such coating will be exposed to cosmic radiations which include γ-rays. To study the effect of these γ-rays on the coating properties, we have deposited vanadium dioxide (VO2) films on silicon substrates and subjected them to extensive γ-irradiations with typical doses encountered in space missions. The prevalent crystallographic phase after irradiation remains the monoclinic VO2 phase but the films preferential orientation shifts to lower angles due to the presence of disordered regions caused by radiations. Raman spectroscopy measurements also evidences that the VO2 structure is slightly affected by gamma irradiation. Indeed, increasing the gamma rays dose locally alters the crystalline and electronic structures of the films by modifying the V–V inter-dimer distance, which in turns favours the presence of the VO2 metallic phase. From the XPS measurements of V2p and O1s core level spectra, an oxidation of vanadium from V4+ towards V5+ is revealed. The data also reveal a hydroxylation upon irradiation which is corroborated by the vanishing of a low oxidation state peak near the Fermi energy in the valence band. Our observations suggest that gamma radiations induce the formation of Frenkel pairs. Moreover, THz transmission measurements show that the long range structure of VO2 remains intact after irradiation whilst the electrical measurements evidence that the coating resistivity decreases with gamma irradiation and that their transition temperature is slightly reduced for high gamma ray doses. Even though gamma rays are only one of the sources of radiations that are encountered in space environment, these results are very promising with regards to the potential of integration of such VO2 films as a protective coating for spacecrafts.