The metallization of Si represents a important industrial process and produces a bi-layered composite of a ductile metal film on a brittle substrate. The mechanical properties of such a composite are determined by the properties of the two layers and the interface and influenced by the fact that the metallized layer, being a very thin film, possesses properties different from those of a bulk material. The fracture toughness is also influenced by the nature and distribution of defects which may be generated during use of these materials, even if the manufacturing process produces a reasonably defect free material. Indentation cracking has been extensively used for the measurement of fracture toughness due to its small sample size requirements as well as a relatively good correlation with values obtained from traditional fracture mechanics tests. The indentation process, with its associated cracks, produces permanent plastic deformation and also introduces a residual stress field. This field influences the crack pattern generated in an adjacent indent and can be used as a methodology to model the influence of multiple defect sources.
The present study was aimed at understanding the effect of a thin Ti alloy metallization layer sputtered on a Si wafer on the sizes of the cracks associated with the indents. It was also aimed at studying the interaction between cracks emanating from sequentially placed indentations. The distance between the indents which generated these cracks was varied from a level comparable to the crack size to a level where interaction could be ignored. This paper discusses the changes in the nature as well as the sizes of cracks due to the presence of the metallization layer as well as the interaction between the stress fields of the indents in this ductile thin film – brittle substrate composite and possible methodologies for delineating these effects.