Development of mechanical characterization methods for thin films and interfaces: “God created matter, surfaces were invented by devil” – Wolfgang Pauli

Jussi Aav

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Probably the most important thin film characteristic is its' adhesion to the used substrate. It is very important to understand the fundamental mechanics of adhesion-related failures, and by having suitable characterization methods to detect any problems as early as possible. Tailored or correctly conducted quantitative analysis of adhesion is required for building reliable devices. In many conventional test methods significant loading to the substrate is applied which can result in problems especially with brittle substrates where the substrate can break before the film is delaminated. The characterization of interfacial mechanical properties of increasingly thinner films is challenging with many practical shortcomings and thus method development is needed. In this thesis, three measurement methods where the loading to the substrate is minimized are presented and demonstrated for the interfacial and mechanical testing of especially atomic layer deposited (ALD) thin films. (i) Microelectromechanical system (MEMS) test chip assisted shaft-loaded blister testing through a hole in the substrate to the backside of the thin film, (ii) microrobotic manipulation of embedded microspheres using lateral loading mostly to the thin film and to the interface and (iii) a combination of nanoscratch and scanning nanowear for minimized interaction volume of loading to the substrate. The relationship between adhesion and cohesion as competing processes during film/substrate failure is shown. When the film-interface-substrate system is under loading the energy will dissipate through the path of least resistance. This will happen either (i) through plastic deformation of the coating/substrate, (ii) film fracture (decohesion) or (iii) delamination (de-adhesion) of the film. Usually, however the energy is dissipated as a combination of these three different mechanisms, unless some of the mechanisms is dominant in the energy release. The presented characterization methods are mostly generic, and can be applied for the evaluation of mechanical and interfacial properties, such as adhesion, between practically any materials of choice with some limitations. Compared to some of the existing methods, the quantitative nature of these characterization methods enables a more in-depth possibility for the analysis, understanding, tuning and improvement of the properties of the thin films and processes aiding in maintaining and improving product and process quality. The main outcome of this thesis is that the authors have demonstrated the potential and versatility of especially the MEMS test structures and microrobotic testing systems, either on their own or as a combination as a solution to developing new tailored interfacial and mechanical characterization methods for current and future needs of research and the industry.
Translated title of the contributionMekaanisten karakterisointimenetelmien kehitys ohutkalvoille ja rajapinnoille
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Koskinen, Jari, Supervising Professor
  • Koskinen, Jari, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8654-5
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8655-2
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • mechanical characterization
  • thin films
  • interfaces
  • ALD


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