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Issue 22, 2017
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Stress-induced surface instabilities and defects in thin films sputter deposited on compliant substrates

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Abstract

Existing analyses predict that thin metal films deposited on compliant substrates are subject to a variety of surface instabilities, such as wrinkles, folds, creases, etc., that become more prominent with increased compressive residual stress. Under compressive stress, cracks have been assumed to form only when the interfacial strength is weak, allowing the film to detach from the substrate. In this work, we demonstrate that cracks also form on surfaces under compressive mismatch strain when the interface is strong. In particular, we consider metal alloy films sputter deposited under bias on elastomers with different thicknesses, curing temperatures or surface treatments. The deposition parameters created residual compressive strains and strong adhesion in the bilayers. Samples without surface treatment formed wrinkles and through-thickness cracks at 0.25–0.4% mismatch strains. Only through-thickness cracks were observed in UV treated samples. The crack spacing was found to decrease by a factor of 4 when the surface was UV treated and by a factor of 3 as the elastomer thickness decreased from 30 to 6 μm. Cracks penetrated through the elastomer, 15–30 times deeper than the film thickness, and formed in all samples with a brittle coating. A numerical model was developed to explain the formation of through-thickness cracks and wrinkles under applied compressive mismatch strains. The model suggests that cracks can initiate from the peak of wrinkles when the critical fracture strength of the coating is exceeded. For the UV treated samples, through-thickness cracks are possibly impacted by the formation of an embrittled near surface PDMS layer.

Graphical abstract: Stress-induced surface instabilities and defects in thin films sputter deposited on compliant substrates

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Publication details

The article was received on 17 Feb 2017, accepted on 05 May 2017 and first published on 08 May 2017


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM00340D
Citation: Soft Matter, 2017,13, 4035-4046
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    Stress-induced surface instabilities and defects in thin films sputter deposited on compliant substrates

    T. Ibru, K. Kalaitzidou, J. K. Baldwin and A. Antoniou, Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 4035
    DOI: 10.1039/C7SM00340D

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