The parallel-plate capacitor equation is widely used in contemporary material research for nanoscale applications and nanoelectronics. To apply this equation, flat and smooth electrodes are assumed for a capacitor. This essential assumption is often violated for thin-film capacitors because the formation of nanoscale roughness at the electrode interface is very probable for thin films grown via common deposition methods. In this work, we experimentally and theoretically show that the electrical capacitance of thin-film capacitors with realistic interface roughness is significantly larger than the value predicted by the parallel-plate capacitor equation. The degree of the deviation depends on the strength of the roughness, which is described by three roughness parameters for a self-affine fractal surface. By applying an extended parallel-plate capacitor equation that includes the roughness parameters of the electrode, we are able to calculate the excess capacitance of the electrode with weak roughness. Moreover, we introduce the roughness parameter limits for which the simple parallel-plate capacitor equation is sufficiently accurate for capacitors with one rough electrode. Our results imply that the interface roughness beyond the proposed limits cannot be dismissed unless the independence of the capacitance from the interface roughness is experimentally demonstrated. The practical protocols suggested in our work for the reliable use of the parallel-plate capacitor equation can be applied as general guidelines in various fields of interest.
- dielectric constant
- interface roughness
- parallel-plate capacitor equation
- thin-film capacitors