Transparent hydrogenated amorphous silicon nitride (SiNx:H) coatings were prepared by dual-mode microwave-radio-frequency plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition. By controlling the effects of plasma density and ion energy on the film growth, it was possible to modify the microstructure of the coatings and hence the refractive index n. Using this method, we were able to vary n from 1.6 to 2.0, at 550 nm, by adjusting the power levels of the radio-frequency and microwave components while keeping the gas composition (SiH4, N2) and pressure constant. An inhomogeneous bandpass filter with a controlled refractive-index depth profile was fabricated, and its optical performance was compared with that of its multilayer counterpart. Besides the attractive optical features of such single-material rugate filters, we found that the mechanical resistance of inhomogeneous films is superior to that of multilayer systems.
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