Fracture testing of nanoscale thin films inside the transmission electron microscope

Sandeep Kumar, M. A. Haque

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


To visualize the fracture mechanisms in nanoscale thin films while measuring their fracture properties, we developed an experimental setup to carry out the experiments in-situ in the transmission electron microscope. The setup includes a 3 mm × 5 mm micro-electro-mechanical testing chip with actuators and sensors to measure fracture toughness of notched specimens. Fracture experiments were performed on about 125 nm thick free-standing aluminum thin film specimens with average grain size of about 50 nm. The specimens fractured at uniform far field stress of 470 MPa with stress intensity factor of 0.81.1 MPa m 1/2. Commonly cited deformation mechanisms, such as dislocation-based plasticity and grain boundary sliding processes were not observed even at the notch tip, where the calculated stress considering the concentration factor exceeded 4 GPa. We propose that for grain sizes below 50 nm, dislocation motion confined at grain boundaries and grain rotation emerge to be significant processes in thin film deformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)745-758
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Mechanics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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