A process for growing a metal oxide thin film upon a semiconductor surface with a physical vapor deposition technique in a high-vacuum environment and a structure formed with the process involves the steps of heating the semiconductor surface and introducing hydrogen gas into the high-vacuum environment to develop conditions at the semiconductor surface which are favorable for growing the desired metal oxide upon the semiconductor surface yet is unfavorable for the formation of any native oxides upon the semiconductor. More specifically, the temperature of the semiconductor surface and the ratio of hydrogen partial pressure to water pressure within the vacuum environment are high enough to render the formation of native oxides on the semiconductor surface thermodynamically unstable yet are not so high that the formation of the desired metal oxide on the semiconductor surface is thermodynamically unstable. Having established these conditions, constituent atoms of the metal oxide to be deposited upon the semiconductor surface are directed toward the surface of the semiconductor by a physical vapor deposition technique so that the atoms come to rest upon the semiconductor surface as a thin film of metal oxide with no native oxide at the semiconductor surface/thin film interface. An example of a structure formed by this method includes an epitaxial thin film of (001)-oriented CeO.sub.2 overlying a substrate of (001) Ge.
This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC05-96OR22464 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation, and the Government has certain rights in the invention.