Thin Layer Deposition of Resistive Material: A Comprehensive Guide


Thin layer deposition is a crucial process in the manufacturing of electronic components, particularly for creating thin film resistors. This article explores the methods, materials, and applications involved in depositing thin layers of resistive material.

What is Thin Layer Deposition?

Thin layer deposition refers to the process of applying an extremely thin coating of material, typically in the range of nanometers to micrometers, onto a substrate surface. This technique is widely used in the production of electronic devices, optical coatings, and protective layers.

The primary goal of thin layer deposition is to deposit a thin layer of resistive material with precise control over thickness, uniformity, and composition. By carefully selecting the deposition method and material properties, engineers can create high-performance thin film resistors for various applications.

Deposition Methods

Several methods are employed to deposit thin layers of resistive material, each with its own advantages and limitations. The most common techniques include:

Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD)

PVD is a vacuum deposition method that involves physically vaporizing a solid material and depositing it onto a substrate. The two main PVD processes used for resistive thin films are:

  1. Sputtering: In this process, high-energy ions bombard a target material, causing atoms to be ejected and deposited onto the substrate. Sputtering is widely used to deposit a thin layer of resistive material like tantalum nitride (TaN) or nickel chromium (NiCr).
  2. Evaporation: This method involves heating the source material to its evaporation point in a vacuum chamber. The vaporized atoms then condense on the cooler substrate surface, forming a thin film. Evaporation is often used to deposit pure metals like chromium or aluminum.

Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD)

CVD is a process in which a thin solid film is deposited on a substrate by a chemical reaction of vapor-phase precursors. In this method, reactive gases are introduced into a chamber containing the heated substrate. The gases react and decompose on the substrate surface, forming a thin layer of the desired material. CVD is commonly used to deposit resistive materials like polysilicon or metal oxides.

Resistive Materials

Various materials are used to create thin film resistors, each with specific properties and applications. Some of the most common resistive materials include:



Resistivity (Ω·m)

Temperature Coefficient (ppm/°C)

Typical Applications

Tantalum Nitride (TaN)

1.35 × 10^-6 to 2.16 × 10^-6

-50 to -200

Precision resistors, high-frequency applications

Nickel Chromium (NiCr)

1.08 × 10^-6 to 1.50 × 10^-6

20 to 200

General-purpose resistors, heating elements

Chromium Silicide (CrSi)

1.40 × 10^-6 to 3.00 × 10^-6

-100 to 100

High-temperature applications, sensors

Titanium Nitride (TiN)

2.00 × 10^-7 to 1.00 × 10^-6

-50 to 50

Diffusion barriers, conductive layers

The choice of resistive material depends on factors such as the desired resistance value, temperature stability, and compatibility with the substrate and other layers in the device.

Thin Film Resistor Properties

Thin film resistors exhibit unique properties compared to their bulk counterparts due to their reduced thickness and the influence of the substrate. Some key properties of thin film resistors include:

Sheet Resistance

Sheet resistance is a measure of the resistance of a thin film material normalized to a square shape. It is expressed in ohms per square (Ω/□) and is independent of the film’s size. Sheet resistance is a crucial parameter in designing thin film resistors, as it determines the resistance value for a given geometry.

Temperature Coefficient of Resistance (TCR)

TCR is a measure of how the resistance of a material changes with temperature. It is expressed in parts per million per degree Celsius (ppm/°C). A low TCR is desirable for stable and precise resistors, while a high TCR can be exploited in temperature-sensing applications.

Stability and Reliability

Thin film resistors must maintain their resistance value over time and under various environmental conditions. Factors such as moisture, temperature, and electrical stress can affect the stability and reliability of thin film resistors. Proper material selection, deposition process control, and protective coatings can help improve the long-term performance of these components.

Applications of Thin Film Resistors

Thin film resistors find applications in a wide range of electronic devices and systems, including:


  1. Precision analog circuits: Thin film resistors offer high accuracy and low noise, making them suitable for use in precision amplifiers, filters, and data converters.
  2. High-frequency applications: The low parasitic capacitance and inductance of thin film resistors make them ideal for high-frequency circuits, such as RF and microwave devices.
  3. Sensors and transducers: Thin film resistors can be used to sense temperature, pressure, and strain sensors, exploiting their TCR or piezoresistive properties.
  4. Integrated circuits: Thin film resistors are commonly used in integrated circuits, where they can be fabricated directly on the semiconductor substrate, saving space and improving performance.


Thin layer deposition of resistive material is a critical process in the fabrication of thin film resistors and other electronic components. By carefully selecting the deposition method, resistive material, and process parameters, engineers can create high-performance resistors with precise resistance values, low-temperature coefficients, and excellent stability.

As electronic devices continue to shrink in size and increase in complexity, the importance of thin film resistors and the thin layer deposition techniques used to create them will only grow. Ongoing research and development in materials science and deposition technologies will further expand the capabilities and applications of these essential components.


Skip to content