The kinetics of the interfacial layer (IL) growth between Hf aluminates and the Si substrate during high-temperature rapid thermal annealing (RTA) in either N-2 (similar to10 Torr) or high vacuum (similar to2x10(-5) Torr) is studied by high-resolution x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy. The significant difference of the IL growth observed between high vacuum and relatively oxygen-rich N-2 annealing (both at 1000 degreesC) is shown to be caused by the oxygen species from the annealing ambient. Our results also show that Hf aluminates exhibit much stronger resistance to oxygen diffusion than pure HfO2 during RTA in N-2 ambient, and the resistance becomes stronger with more Al incorporated into HfO2. This observation is explained by the combined effects of (i) smaller oxygen diffusion coefficient of Al2O3 than HfO2, and (ii) higher crystallization temperature of the Hf aluminates. (C) 2002 American Institute of Physics.