In this paper, tantalum pentoxide (Ta-2 Os), titanium dioxide (TiO2) and aluminum oxide (Al2O3) coatings are deposited on silicon substrates by ion beam sputtering (IBS). The influences of the thermal exposure at high temperature in air on the surface morphology, roughness, and the structure were investigated. The results indicate that the chemical composition of the as-deposited TiO2 and Ta2O5 coatings are apparently close to the stoichiometry ratios and both of them are amorphous structures. The peaks corresponding to anatase TiO2 appear at 400 degrees C while the anatase-to-rutile transformation is not observed after 800 degrees C and 1000 degrees C bake. Ta2O5 coating crystallizes at 800 degrees C and 1000 degrees C to form the hexagonal structure and orthorhombic structure, respectively. TiO2 and Al2O3 single layers all develop catastrophic damage at 400 degrees C in the form of noted spallation or blisters, whereas there is no visible damage for the Ta2O5 coating even at 1000 degrees C. To understand possible damage mechanisms, the thermal stress distributions through the thickness of Ta2O5 and TiO2 coatings and the influence of the microstructure transformation are discussed. Finally, some possible approaches to improve the thermal stability are also proposed. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.