Fracture mechanisms of sink thin-films on compliant substrates

Alex Z. Kattamis, Kunigunde H. Cherenack, I. Chun Cheng, Ke Long, James C. Sturm, Sigurd Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The prospect of large-area electronics on polymers, for flexible applications requires a study of thin film fracture mechanisms. To fabricate thin-film transistor (TFT) backplanes on polymer foils the substrate must first be passivated to protect the polymer substrate from chemicals used during processing and to protect the TFT5 from substrate out gassing. Silicon nitride (SiN x) is commonly used for this purpose since it tends to adhere well to polymers and is easily deposited by PE-CVD. When rigid thin films such as SIN x are deposited onto compliant substrates, such as polymer foils, stresses caused by built-in strains and the mismatch in coefficients of thermal expansion can cause fracture. The deposited thin films may fracture, and also the polymer substrate below. Using focused-ion beam milling and scanning electron microscopy we analyzed two distinct thin film fracture morphologies for SiN x films on two different types of polymer substrate. One had a relatively low, the other a relatively high coefficient of thermal expansion. For both SiNdsubstrate systems the SiNg was under residual compressive stress and the substrate under tension. In one case the compressive stress in the thin films cause them to debond, buckle, and crack. In the other case the tensile stress in the substrate causes it to tear, followed by the fracture of the SiNg film above.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalMaterials Research Society Symposium Proceedings
StatePublished - 2008
EventMaterials and Technology for Flexible, Conformable and Stretchable Sensors and Transistors - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Mar 24 2008Mar 28 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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