Young's modulus and density measurements of thin atomic layer deposited films using resonant nanomechanics

B. Ilic*, S. Krylov, H. G. Craighead

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Material properties of atomic layer deposited (ALD) thin films are of interest for applications ranging from wear resistance to high- k dielectrics in electronic circuits. We demonstrate the ability to simultaneously measure Young's modulus (E) and density (ρ ) of 21.2-21.5 nm ALD hafnia, alumina, and aluminum nitride ultrathin films by observing vibrations of nanomechanical cantilever beams. The nanomechanical structures were fabricated from a 250 nm thick single crystal silicon layer with varying length and width ranging from 6 μm to 10 μm and 45 nm to 1 μm, respectively. Our approach is based on an optical excitation and interferometric detection of in-plane and out-of plane vibrational spectra of single crystal silicon cantilevers before and after a conformal coating deposition of an ALD thin film. In conjunction with three-dimensional numerical finite element analysis, measurements of resonance carried out prior to the ALD revealed that while the influence of clamping compliance arising from the undercut of the sacrificial layer is significant for wider beams, the effect is less pronounced for both, narrower cantilevers and the in-plane vibrational response. Following the deposition, higher stiffness alumina films (E> ESi) showed an increase in the resonant frequency whereas lower stiffness (E< ESi) hafnia and aluminum nitride films decreased the natural frequency. From the measured spectral response, material properties were extracted using simple expressions for E and ρ in terms of measured in-plane and out-of-plane frequencies shifts. The derived model was based on an ideally clamped Euler-Bernoulli beam with effective bending stiffness and effective mass per unit length. In-plane and out-of-plane frequency measurements provided two equations that enabled simultaneous extraction of E and ρ . Three-dimensional finite element analysis showed that residual stress, nonideal clamping conditions, and the mismatch in the Poisson's ratio between the deposited film and the nanomechanical oscillator have minor influence on the determined material properties. Experimental results obtained for the measured films were in excellent agreement with finite element simulations incorporating the geometric undercut caused by release of the suspended structures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044317
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2010


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