The density of hafnium oxide films grown by atomic layer deposition for high-kappa gate dielectric applications was investigated for films with thickness in the nanometer range. The density, measured by combining the film thickness from transmission electron microscopy with the amount of hafnium deposited from Rutherford backscattering, decreased with decreasing film thickness. The dielectric constant of hafnium oxide remained constant with decreasing film thickness, however. The main reason for the decrease in the measured density seemed not to be a decrease in the inherent material density. Instead, the relative importance of interface roughness in the density measurement increased with decreasing film thickness. (C) 2005 American Institute of Physics.