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Strength Distributions in Polycrystalline Silicon MEMS

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4 Author(s)
Boyce, B.L. ; Mater. & Process Sci. Center, Sandia Nat. Lab., Albuquerque, NM ; Grazier, J.M. ; Buchheit, T.E. ; Shaw, M.J.

Safe and reliable design of MEMS components requires a statistical description of the material properties that are associated with failure. To this end, a series of microscale tensile tests was performed on polysilicon MEMS structures fabricated using Sandia National Laboratories' SUMMiT Vtrade process. Tensile bars were fabricated from each of the four freestanding polysilicon layers, with gage lengths ranging from 30 to 3750 mum. A two-parameter Weibull distribution appeared to adequately characterize the observed tensile strength distributions. The strength distribution was found to be dependent on the length of the tensile structures, as expected by the Weibull size effect, and unexpectedly strongly dependent on the layer from which the tensile bar was constructed. Specifically, the topmost polysilicon layer in the deposition process (poly4) was more than twice the strength of the bottom freestanding polysilicon layer (poly1). The mechanistic source of this layer-dependent strength appears to originate, at least in part, from process-dependent surface roughness, although other factors such as layer-dependent variations in microstructure, residual stress, and doping are also considered. A fracture mechanics analysis of the strength distributions suggests that the size of the critical flaws is in the vicinity from 50 to 150 nm. Fractography revealed crack origins along the sidewalls, corners, and top surfaces. Weibull strength distributions were also established at elevated temperatures: 200, 400, 600, and 800 degC in air and nitrogen environments. These results revealed the onset of ductility and reduction in strength at elevated temperatures: at 600 degC strength was less than 40% of the room temperature value. Most of the strength was regained if the material was tested at room temperature after a high-temperature exposure. In the discussion, we briefly review concepts for incorporating these observed strength distributions into probabilistic safe design of ME- - MS components

Published in:

Microelectromechanical Systems, Journal of  (Volume:16 ,  Issue: 2 )