The mechanical strength of polysilicon films: Part 1. The influence of fabrication governed surface conditions

Ioannis Chasiotis, Wolfgang G. Knauss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In an effort to explain the considerable variations in measured mechanical strength of polysilicon films doped with phosphorous for use in MEMS applications, the influence of the specimen manufacturing processes on the mechanical properties has been examined in connection with varying exposure to 49% hydrofluoric acid (HF). It was found that surface roughness as characterized by groove formation along grain boundaries depends on the HF release time. Surface undulations and crevasses related to grain structure result thus in reduced fracture strength and, in addition, induce errors into the determination of the effective elastic modulus - especially when the latter is determined from flexure configurations. Extensive exposure to HF results in pervasive material degradation, as evidenced by a transition from transgranular to intergranular fracture, and a correspondingly precipitous drop of the film strength with attendant increase in grain boundary material removal. Short times of exposure to HF can result in delamination of a thin surface layer, which is sufficient to initiate an "early" failure. Longer exposure allows HF permeation into the intergranular domains, degrading the body of the material significantly. On the other hand, tests on material from a different source that has undergone different doping and post-processing demonstrated a suppression of this degradation resulting in film strengths that are higher by a factor of two or more. Thus, consideration of additional influences of doping and electro-chemical phenomena during the HF wet release, in association with silicon-metal contacts, is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1533-1550
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydrofluoric acid
  • Intergranular fracture
  • MEMS
  • Mechanical strength
  • Phosphorous doping
  • Polycrystalline silicon
  • Transgranular fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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