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This paper reports a transition in the fracture behavior of micron-sized single-crystal-silicon (SCS) film in an MEMS structure for various film thicknesses and ambient temperatures. The mean fracture toughness of 4-µm-thick SCS films was 1.28 MPa at room temperature (RT), and the value increased as the film thickness decreased, reaching 2.91 MPa for submicron-thick films. The fracture toughness of 4-µm-thick film did not change for ambient temperatures ranging from RT to 60ºC. However, it drastically increased at 70ºC and reached 2.60 MPa at 150ºC. Enhanced dislocation activity in the SCS crystal near the fracture surface was observed on 1-µm-thick film at RT and 4-µm-thick film at 80ºC by high-voltage electron microscopy. This change in dislocation activity seemed to correlated with the transition in fracture behavior.
A new in-situ surface observation system under tensile stress with an atomic resolution has been developed for the purpose of the explanation of the deformation of the surface and the crack growth mechanism for thin films in the micro- and nano-mechanical systems. The mechanical properties such as Young's modulus can be determined at the same time. This observation system consists of the on-chip tensile testing system and a commercialized atomic force microscope (AFM). The on-chip testing system is characterized by a static loading mechanism with a flat spring and a test chip of single-crystal silicon of 15×15×0.5 mm. Particular attention has been paid to the suppression of the vibration which effects on images of the surface with an atomic resolution. Atomic images of the surface of mica can be observed under various tensile strains till the occurrence of the fracture. The growth of the cracks and Young's modulus for TiN thin film deposited on silicon (100) specimen can be also clarified.
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