Journal of Materials Research

Outstanding Meeting Paper

Constraint Effects on Thin Film Channel Cracking Behavior

Ting Y. Tsuia1 c1, Andrew J. McKerrowa1 and Joost J. Vlassaka2

a1 Silicon Technology Development, Texas Instruments Inc., Dallas, Texas 75246

a2 Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138


One of the most common forms of cohesive failure observed in brittle thin film subjected to a tensile residual stress is channel cracking, a fracture mode in which through-film cracks propagate in the film. The crack growth rate depends on intrinsic film properties, residual stress, the presence of reactive species in the environments, and the precise film stack. In this paper, we investigate the effect of various buffer layers sandwiched between a brittle carbon-doped-silicate (CDS) film and a silicon substrate on channel cracking of the CDS film. The results show that channel cracking is enhanced if the buffer layer is more compliant than the silicon substrate. Crack velocity increases with increasing buffer layer thickness and decreasing buffer layer stiffness. This is caused by a reduction of the constraint imposed by the substrate on the film and a commensurate increase in energy release rate. The degree of constraint is characterized experimentally as a function of buffer layer thickness and stiffness, and compared to the results of a simple shear lag model that was proposed previously. The results show that the shear lag model does not accurately predict the effect of the buffer layer.

(Received March 23 2005)

(Accepted May 31 2005)

Key Words:

  • Fracture;
  • Glass;
  • Thin film


c1 Address all correspondence to this author. e-mail: This paper was selected as the Outstanding Meeting Paper for the 2005 MRS Spring Meeting Symposium B Proceedings, Vol. 863.