Nanoindentation hardness of soft films on hard substrates: Effects of the substrate Conference Paper uri icon


  • The ability to accurately measure the mechanical properties of thin metallic films is important in the semiconductor industry as it relates to device reliability issues. One popular technique for measuring thin film mechanical properties is nanoindentation. This technique has the advantage of being able to measure properties such as hardness and elastic modulus without removing a film from its substrate. However, according to a widely-held rule of thumb, intrinsic film properties can be measured in a manner which is not influenced by the substrate only if the indentation depth is kept to less than 10% of the film thickness, which is often not practical. In this work, a method for making substrate independent hardness measurements of soft metallic films on hard substrates is proposed. The primary issue to be addressed is the substrate-induced enhancement of indentation pile-up and the ways in which this pile-up influences the contact area determined from analyses of nanoindentation load-displacement data. Based on experimental observations of soft aluminum films on silicon, glass, and sapphire substrates, a simple empirical relationship is derived which relates the amount of pile-up to the contact depth. From this relationship, a simple method is developed which allows the intrinsic hardness of the film to be measured by nanoindentation methods even when the indenter penetrates through the film into the substrate.

published proceedings

  • Materials Research Society Symposium - Proceedings

author list (cited authors)

  • Tsui, T. Y., Ross, C. A., & Pharr, G. M.

complete list of authors

  • Tsui, TY||Ross, CA||Pharr, GM

publication date

  • December 1997