Role of Microstructure and Doping on the Mechanical Strength and Toughness of Polysilicon Thin Films

Sivakumar Yagnamurthy, Brad L. Boyce, Ioannis Chasiotis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of microstructure and doping on the mechanical strength of microscale tension specimens of columnar grain and laminated polysilicon doped with different concentrations of phosphorus was investigated. The average tensile strengths of undoped columnar and laminated polysilicon specimens were 1.3 ± 0.1 and 2.45 ± 0.3 GPa, respectively. Heavy doping reduced the strength of columnar polysilicon specimens to 0.9 ± 0.1 GPa. On grounds of Weibull statistics, the experimental results from specimens with gauge sections of 1000 μm × 100 μm × 1 μm predicted quite well the tensile strength of specimens with gauge sections of 150 μm × 3.75 μm × 1 μm, and vice versa. The large difference in the mechanical strength between columnar and laminated polysilicon specimens was due to sidewall flaws in columnar polysilicon, which were introduced during reactive ion etching (RIE) and were further exacerbated by phosphorus doping. Removal of the large defect regions at the sidewalls of columnar polysilicon specimens via ion milling increased their tensile strength by 70%-100%, approaching the strength of laminated polysilicon, which implies that the two types of polysilicon films have comparable tensile strength. Measurements of the effective mode I critical stress intensity factor, KIC,eff, also showed that all types of polysilicon films had comparable resistance to fracture. Therefore, additional processing steps to eliminate the edge flaws in RIE patterned devices could result in significantly stronger microelectromechanical system components fabricated by conventional columnar polysilicon films.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7066946
Pages (from-to)1436-1452
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Microelectromechanical Systems
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2015


  • Critical stress intensity factor
  • MEMS
  • Weibull
  • grain size
  • size effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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