Fundamentals of MOF Thin Film Growth via Liquid-Phase Epitaxy: Investigating the Initiation of Deposition and the Influence of Temperature

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Thin films can integrate the versatility and great potential found in the emerging field of metal organic frameworks directly into device architectures. For fabrication of smart interfaces containing surface-anchored metal organic frameworks, it is important to understand how the foundational layers form to create the interface between the underlying substrate and porous framework. Herein, the formation and morphology of the first ten cycles of film deposition are investigated for the well-studied HKUST-1 system. Effects of processing variables, such as deposition temperature and substrate quality, are studied. Sequences of scanning probe microscopy images collected after cycles of alternating solution-phase deposition reveal the formation of a discontinuous surface with nucleating and growing crystallites consistent with a Volmer-Weber growth mechanism. Quantitative image analysis determines surface roughness and surface coverage as a function of deposition cycles, producing insight regarding growth and structure of foundational film layers. For carboxylic acid terminated self-assembled monolayers on gold, preferred crystal orientation is influenced by deposition temperature with crystal growth along [100] observed at 25 degrees C and [111] favored at 50 degrees C. This difference in crystal orientation results in reduced surface roughness and increased surface coverage at 50 degrees C. To properly fabricate and fully determine the potential of this material for industrial applications, fundamental understanding of film formation is crucial.