Thin film delamination can occur when the stored elastic energy per unit area in the film due to the residual stress exceeds the interfacial toughness. Telephone cord morphology is commonly observed in delaminating thin films under compressive stresses. Here, the biaxial film stress is partially relieved by film buckling in the direction perpendicular to the telephone cord propagation, and by “secondary” blister buckling in the direction of telephone cord propagation, which results in the sinusoidal fracture patterns.
A superlayer indentation test, in which additional stress is supplied to the crack tip using a nanoindenter, can be used to measure the interfacial toughness. Estimates of the energy release rate for diamond-like carbon (DLC) films on magnetic media were obtained using the superlayer indentation test, as well as the delaminated buckling profiles. The results obtained by these two independent methods are in good agreement with each other. We find the average adhesion energy to be 6 J/m2 for DLC films on magnetic media.
Normally telephone cord blisters “run out of steam” and stop once the interfacial toughness exceeds the strain energy release rate. It is possible to make blisters propagate further by either putting mechanical energy into the system, or by introducing liquids at the crack tip, thus reducing the film interfacial toughness. Environmental species can assist cracking and contribute to thin film delamination, which is readily observed in vintage mirrors. Crack propagation rates on the order of microns per minute were measured for DLC films in different fluid environments. We identify how telephone cord buckling delamination can be used as a test vehicle for studying crack propagation rates and environmentally assisted cracking in thin films.