Slow Crack Growth in Single-Crystal Silicon

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Science  12 Jun 1992:
Vol. 256, Issue 5063, pp. 1537-1539
DOI: 10.1126/science.256.5063.1537


Time-dependent crack growth has been measured on a precracked, single-crystal silicon cantilever beam 75 micrometers long that was excited at resonance. Growth of the precrack changes the resonant frequency of the beam, which is correlated to crack length. The measured steady-state crack growth rate was as slow as 2.9 x 10–13 meter per second, although the apparatus can measure crack growth rates as low as 10–15 meter per second. It is postulated that static fatigue of the native surface silica layer is the mechanism for crack growth. These experiments demonstrate the possibility of rate-dependent failure of silicon devices and the applicability of linear elastic fracture mechanics to small-scale micromechanical devices. The results indicate that slow crack growth must therefore be considered when evaluating the reliability of thin-film silicon structures.