The mechanism of corner instabilities in single-crystal thin films during dewetting

TitleThe mechanism of corner instabilities in single-crystal thin films during dewetting
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsZucker, RV, Kim, GHyun, Ye, J, Carter, WCraig, Thompson, CV
JournalJournal of Applied Physics
Date Published2016/03/28/
ISBN Number0021-8979
Keywordsagglomeration, capillary instabilities, growth, islands, kinetics, layers, si, silicon-on-insulator, technology, trends

Dewetting is a well-known degradation mechanism for thin films at elevated temperatures. It is driven by surface energy minimization and occurs while the film is solid. The dewetting process is characterized by the formation of holes, retracting edges, and the formation of thickened rims on retracting edges. In anisotropic single-crystal thin films, holes are initially faceted. It is often observed that the corners of the holes retract faster than the edges of the hole, leading to dendritic or star-shaped holes. This so-called "corner instability" is one of the defining morphological characteristics of the dewetting process, and an understanding of this instability may lead to new film patterning techniques. In this work, we present a study of the growth of natural and patterned initially square holes in single-crystal Ni thin films on MgO substrates. A characteristic structure near the corners of the holes was observed, and a model for the growth of faceted holes was developed based on these observations. Despite its simplicity, the model reproduces the observed phenomenology and is in quantitative agreement with experiments. The model reveals that the corner instability arises from a redistribution of mass to create a new hole perimeter, which can only be created at the corner. The consequence is that the corner reaches a steady-state constant retraction rate while mass accumulation at the rims causes their retraction rate to continuously decrease. (C) 2016 AIP Publishing LLC.

Short TitleJ. Appl. Phys.