Effects of adhesion on the measurement of thin film mechanical properties by nanoindentation
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Experiments have been performed on soft aluminum films deposited on hard ceramic substrates to explore the influences of interfacial adhesion on mechanical property measurement by nanoindentation. The substrate materials included soda-lime silicate glass, aluminum oxynitride (ALON), and (100) sapphire. Thin films of high purity aluminum were sputtered onto each substrate to a thickness of 500 nm. Because the films were deposited simultaneously, the only major difference in the specimens was the nature of the substrate, which exerts an important influence on film adhesion through interfacial chemistry. Of the substrates examined, aluminum adheres strongly to glass and sapphire, but poorly to ALON. In addition, two different types of aluminum films on sapphire were examined - one with and the other without a 10 nm interlayer of amorphous carbon which significantly reduces film adhesion. Testing revealed important differences in the hardness of the specimens when measured by standard nanoindentation methods. Characterization of the residual hardness impressions by high resolution scanning electron microscopy showed that the hardness differences arise from an influence of interfacial debonding and film delamination on pile-up in the film. Furthermore, when the pile-up is accounted for in contact area determinations, the film hardness is actually independent of the substrate, thus indicating that the hardness differences observed in nanoindentation testing are an artifact of the testing analysis procedure. Results of the experiments are documented and discussed.