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High-Resolution Measurement of Crack Growth in Micro-Machined Crystal Silicon

  • A.M. Fitzgerald (a1), R.H. Dauskardt (a2) and T.W. Kenny (a3)


Time dependent sub-critical cracking associated with environmental species such as moisture may have significant implications for the reliability of MEMS devices made of silicon. However, the existence of such stress corrosion phenomena in silicon remains controversial. Sub-critical crack-growth behavior in brittle materials is commonly characterized using crack velocity versus applied stress intensity curves (v-K curves). Crack velocity is inferred by curve-fitting crack length versus time data taken at low sample rates (<100 Hz) under the assumption that crack growth is a continuous process. However, we have observed discrete crack growth behavior in a micro-machined compression-loaded double cantilever beam. The samples are fabricated from (100) single crystal silicon wafers. A thin film resistor sputtered onto the sample surface using a lithographic technique is used to directly measure crack extension. The crack growth in all samples is characterized by periods of rapid crack growth interspersed with long periods of arrest in which no evidence of sub-critical cracking was observed. High speed data acquisition (up to 100 MHz) was performed and crack velocities as high as 1.7 km/s were accurately measured during these rapid growth periods.



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