Tensile properties of thin films may be interpreted as a structure sensitive plastic region superposed on an elastic background in a manner similar to bulk specimen tensile testing. However, the limitations of both the material and tensile instrument have not usually been tested in detail.
We report our experience with aluminum and alumina films some 100 nm thick prepared by evaporation of Al followed by anodization for the alumina film. Self-supporting films are glued to glass “jaws” of the nanotensilometer and force-elongation data recorded. Mounting thickness, glue slip-page, instrument calibration, and other possible artifacts will be examined in detail. A typical Al stress-strain curve has an initial small curved region interpreted as a mounting artifact, followed by a primarily elastic (near linear) region and increasing plastic deformation until failure occurs. Alumina films fail in a brittle manner. Characterization techniques include TEM, RBS, and other surface spectroscopies; selected examples will be reported. Strain rate and preliminary annealing data are presented with a microscopic interpretation.
In general, thin metal films are less ductile than their bulk counterparts, grain sizes are much smaller, and they may possess large stresses and unexpected impurities, but have mechanical properties that can be modelled.