Journal of Materials Research


Crystallite coalescence: A mechanism for intrinsic tensile stresses in thin films

W. D. Nixa1 and B. M. Clemensa1

a1 Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305–2205


We examined the stress associated with crystallite coalescence during the initial stages of growth in thin polycrystalline films with island growth morphology. As growing crystallites contacted each other at their bases, the side-walls zipped together until a balance was reached between the energy associated with eliminating surface area, creating a grain boundary and straining the film. Our estimate for the resulting strain depends only on interfacial free energies, elastic properties, and grain size and predicts large tensile stresses in agreement with experimental results. We also discuss possible stress relaxation mechanisms that can occur during film growth subsequent to the coalescence event.

(Received August 19 1998)

(Accepted May 10 1999)