Mechanical property characterization of sputtered and plasma enhanced chemical deposition (PECVD) silicon nitride films after rapid thermal annealing

P. H. Wu, I. K. Lin, H. Y. Yan, K. S. Ou, K. S. Chen, X. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, the mechanical and fracture properties of silicon nitride films subjected to rapid thermal annealing (RTA) have been systemically tested. The residual stress, Young's modulus, hardness, fracture toughness, and interfacial strength of both sputtered and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) silicon nitride films deposited on silicon wafers were measured and compared. The results indicated that the Young's modulus and hardness of both types of silicon nitride films significantly increased when the RTA temperature increased. Furthermore, RTA processes could also alter the state of residual stress. The initial residual compressive stress of sputtered silicon nitride film was gradually relieved, and the film became tensile after the RTA process. For PECVD silicon nitride, the tensile residual stress reached its peak after a 600 °C RTA, then dropped after further increases in RTA temperature, due to stress relaxation. The tendency of the equivalent fracture toughness was to exhibit a strong correlation with that shown in the residual stress of silicon nitride. By considering the effect of residual stress, the real fracture toughness of both types of silicon nitride films were slightly enhanced by using RTA processes. Finally, experimental results indicated that the interfacial strength of PECVD silicon nitride could also be significantly improved by RTA processes at 600-800 °C. On the other hand, the initial interfacial strength of the sputtered silicon nitride was sufficiently strong, and the RTA processes only resulted in minor improvements. The characterization flow could be applied to other brittle films, and these specific test results should be useful for improving the structural integrity and process optimization of related MEMS and IC applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-126
Number of pages10
JournalSensors and Actuators, A: Physical
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Jul

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Instrumentation
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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