Interfacial toughness measurements for thin films on substrates

A. A. Volinsky, N. R. Moody, W. W. Gerberich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

522 Scopus citations


There are more than 200 different methods for measuring adhesion, suggesting it to be material, geometry and even industry specific. This availability has exploded at least partly due to the arrival of dissimilar material interfaces and thin films and the ease with which microfabrication techniques apply to silicon technology. Having an eye toward those tests utilized for thin films, this paper reviews only a few of these techniques. The emphasis is on measuring thin film adhesion from the standpoint of fracture mechanics, when the film is mechanically or by other means removed from the substrate, and the amount of energy necessary for this process is calculated per unit area of the removed film. This tends to give values approaching the true work of adhesion at small thickness and greater values of the practical work of adhesion at larger thickness, all being in the 30-30,000 nm range. The resulting large range of toughnesses is shown to be dependent on the scale of plasticity achieved as controlled by film thickness, microstructure, chemistry and test temperature. While the tests reviewed largely address the measurement of elastic strain energy release rates, we also briefly address a few theoretical models which are specific to the resistance side of the delamination equation. The weight of the evidence suggests for ductile metallic films that the major extrinsic variables are film stress, extent of delamination, thickness and temperature while the major intrinsic ones are modulus, yield strength, the thermodynamic work of adhesion and one or more length scales. For some 25 film/substrate multilayers, with emphasis on Al, Au and Cu, the comparison of several theoretical models as to how the extrinsic and intrinsic variables intertwine is made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-466
Number of pages26
JournalActa Materialia
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 8 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge support for this work by the Center for Interfacial Engineering at the University of Minnesota under grant NSF/CDR-8721551 and the Department of Energy under DOE contract DE-FG02/96ER45574. A.A. Volinsky and N.R. Moody also acknowledge support through DOE contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. The assistance of N.I. Tymiak, B.E. Mills, D.E. McLean and D. Medlin is appreciated. The assistance of Dr. J.C. Nelson from the Center for Interfacial Engineering and Microtechnology Laboratory staff at the University of Minnesota is also gratefully appreciated. We would also like to thank Indira S. Adhihetty, Joseph B. Vella, Robert H. Carpenter and Lester Casoose Jr. of Motorola, Inc. for help with the FIB analysis.


  • Adhesion energies
  • Fracture & fracture toughness
  • Interfaces
  • Thin films


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