Mechanical and thermophysical properties of silicon nitride thin films at high temperatures using in-situ MEMS temperature sensors

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Conference Proceeding

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Materials Research Society Symposium - Proceedings

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The optimization of microelectronic devices and Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) technology depends on the knowledge of the mechanical and thermophysical properties of the thin film materials used to fabricate them. The thickness, stoichiometry, structure and thermal history can affect the properties of thin films causing their mechanical and thermophysical properties to diverge from bulk values. Moreover, it is known that the mechanical and thermophysical properties of thin films vary considerably at different temperatures. Bulk properties of semiconductors have been characterized over a wide range of temperatures; however there is limited information on thin film properties of silicon-based compounds such as silicon nitride, specially at high temperatures. In our work, MEMS devices designed to record the localized maximum temperature during high temperature thermal processes, which we call Breaking T-MEMS, will be presented as a way to determine some of the mechanical properties (Young's modulus and fracture strength) and thermophysical properties (coefficient of thermal expansion) of silicon-rich nitride thin films at high temperatures. The Breaking T-MEMS device consists of a thin film bridge suspended over a substrate. During testing, the devices are thermally loaded in tension by heating the sample. The low coefficient of thermal expansion of the film relative to that of the substrate causes the thin film bridge to break at a specific temperature. Through a combination of indirect experimental measurements, analytical expressions, numerical and statistical analysis, and if the experiments are conducted using at least two different substrates of known temperature-dependent coefficients of thermal expansion, some of the material properties of the film can be calculated from the breaking temperatures of various devices. The two candidate materials for the substrate are silicon and aluminum oxide (sapphire).



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