Mechanisms for fatigue and wear of polysilicon structural thinfilms

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Fatigue and wear in micron-scale polysilicon structural films can severely impact the reliability of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Despite studies on fatigue and wear behavior of these films, there is still an on-going debate regarding the precise physical mechanisms for these two important failure modes. Although macro-scale silicon does not fatigue, this phenomenon is observed in micron-scale silicon. It is shown that for polysilicon devices fabricated in the MUMPs foundry and SUMMiT process stress-lifetime data exhibits similar trends in ambient air, shorter lifetimes in higher relative humidity environments and no fatigue failure at all in high vacuum. Transmission electron microscopy of ... continued below

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Alsem, Daniel Henricus December 1, 2006.

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Fatigue and wear in micron-scale polysilicon structural films can severely impact the reliability of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Despite studies on fatigue and wear behavior of these films, there is still an on-going debate regarding the precise physical mechanisms for these two important failure modes. Although macro-scale silicon does not fatigue, this phenomenon is observed in micron-scale silicon. It is shown that for polysilicon devices fabricated in the MUMPs foundry and SUMMiT process stress-lifetime data exhibits similar trends in ambient air, shorter lifetimes in higher relative humidity environments and no fatigue failure at all in high vacuum. Transmission electron microscopy of the surface oxides of the samples show an approximate four-fold thickening of the oxide at stress concentrations after fatigue failure, but no thickening after fracture in air or after fatigue cycling in vacuo. It is found that such oxide thickening and fatigue failure (in air) occurs in devices with initial oxide thicknesses of {approx}4-20 nm. Such results are interpreted and explained by a reaction layer fatigue mechanism; specifically, moisture-assisted subcritical cracking within a cyclic stress-assisted thickened oxide layer occurs until the crack reaches a critical size to cause catastrophic failure. Polysilicon specimens from the SUMMiT process are used to study wear mechanisms in micron-scale silicon in ambient air. Worn parts are examined by analytical scanning and transmission electron microscopy, while temperature changes are monitored using infrared microscopy. These results are compared with the development of values of static coefficients of friction (COF) with number of wear cycles. Observations show amorphous debris particles ({approx}50-100 nm) created by fracture through the silicon grains ({approx}500 nm), which subsequently oxidize, agglomerate into clusters and create plowing tracks. A nano-crystalline layer ({approx}20-200 nm) forms at worn regions. No dislocations or extreme temperature increases are found, ruling out plasticity and temperature-assisted mechanisms. The COF reaches a steady-state value of {approx}0.20{+-}0.05 after a short time at an initial value of {approx}0.11{+-}0.01. Plowing tracks are found before the steady-state value of the COF is reached, suggesting only a short adhesive wear regime. This suggests a predominantly abrasive wear mechanism, controlled by fracture, which commences by the first particles created by adhesive wear.

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  • Report No.: LBNL--62567
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 910596
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc890883

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  • December 1, 2006

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Sept. 29, 2016, 3:10 p.m.

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Alsem, Daniel Henricus. Mechanisms for fatigue and wear of polysilicon structural thinfilms, thesis or dissertation, December 1, 2006; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc890883/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.