In this paper, we investigate the role of deposition angle on the physical properties and work function of pulsed dc sputter-deposited Al-doped zinc oxide (AZO) thin films. It is observed that average grain size and crystal quality increase with higher angle of deposition, yielding improved optical properties. A systematic blue shift as well as a decrease in the resistivity takes place with the increasing growth angle up to 70°, while an opposite trend is observed beyond that. In addition, the work function of AZO films is also measured using Kelvin probe force microscopy, which corroborates well with the optical and structural properties. The observed results are explained in the framework of growth angle induced diffusion and shadowing effects. The films deposited at higher angles will be important for rapid incorporation into new technological applications that require a transparent conductive oxide.
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