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Notch Root Oxide Formation During Fatigue of Polycrystalline Silicon Structural Films

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2 Author(s)
Pierron, O.N. ; Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park ; Muhlstein, C.L.

This paper investigates the fatigue behavior of n+-type 2-mum- thick polycrystalline silicon films that exhibit an initially thin (~2-3 nm) native oxide layer. The testing of kilohertz-frequency resonators provided accurate stress-life fatigue data at 30 and 50% relative humidity (RH) in the low (< 106)and high (up to 1011) cycle regimes. Long fatigue life specimens were associated with larger decreases in the natural frequency of the resonator and very smooth failure origins (at the notch) that encompassed several grains. Additional testing at various humidity levels highlighted the critical influence of humidity on the fatigue damage accumulation rate, which was measured via changes in the natural frequency. Finally, Auger electron spectroscopy (AES) characterized the formation of a nanometer-scale oxygen-rich reaction layer during cyclic loading. Although AES revealed a thin 2-3-nm initial oxide layer on a control specimen, measurements on a long-life fatigued specimen revealed an increased oxygen concentration over the first 10 nm of the material at the notch root. These findings demonstrate that the reaction-layer fatigue mechanism for silicon structural films operates even when reaction layers are initially very thin.

Published in:

Microelectromechanical Systems, Journal of  (Volume:16 ,  Issue: 6 )