Journal of Materials Research


Fracture modes in micropillar compression of brittle crystals

Philip R. Howiea1 c1, Sandra Kortea1 and William J. Clegga1

a1 Gordon Laboratory, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, Cambridge CB2 3QZ, United Kingdom


This article describes cracking during microcompression of Si, InAs, MgO, and MgAl2O4 crystals and compares this with previous observations on Si and GaAs micropillars. The most common mode of cracking was through-thickness axial splitting, the crack growing downward from intersecting slip bands in pillars above a critical size. The splitting behavior observed in all of these materials was quantitatively consistent with a previous analysis, despite the differences in properties and slip geometry between the different materials. Cracking above the slip bands also occurred either in the side or in the top surface of some pillars. The driving forces for these modes of cracking are described and compared with observations. However, only through-thickness axial splitting was observed to give complete failure of the pillar; it is, therefore, considered to be the most important in determining the brittle-to-ductile transitions that have been observed.

(Received May 05 2011)

(Accepted August 02 2011)

Key Words:

  • Fracture;
  • Toughness;
  • Ceramic


c1 Address all correspondence to this author. e-mail: