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Study of mechanical behavior of AFM silicon tips under mechanical load

: Kopycinska-Müller, Malgorzata; Gluch, Jürgen; Köhler, Bernd


Nanotechnology 27 (2016), Nr.45, Art. 454001, 16 S.
ISSN: 0957-4484
ISSN: 1361-6528
Fraunhofer IKTS ()
AFM; silicon crystal; dislocation; phase transformation; AFAM

In this paper we address critical issues concerning calibration of AFM based methods used for nanoscale mechanical characterization of materials. It has been shown that calibration approaches based on macroscopic models for contact mechanics may yield excellent results in terms of the indentation modulus of the sample, but fail to provide a comprehensive and actual information concerning the tip-sample contact radius or the mechanical properties of the tip. Explanations for the severely reduced indentation modulus of the tip included the inadequacies of the models used for calculations of the tip-sample contact stiffness, discrepancies in the actual and ideal shape of the tip, presence of the amorphous silicon phase within the silicon tip, as well as negligence of the actual size of the stress field created in the tip during elastic interactions. To clarify these issues, we investigated the influence of the mechanical load applied to four AFM silicon tips on their crystalline state by exposing them to systematically increasing loads, evaluating the character of the tip-sample interactions via the load-unload stiffness curves, and assessing the state of the tips from HR-TEM images. The results presented in this paper were obtained in a series of relatively simple and basic atomic force acoustic microscopy (AFAM) experiments. The novel combination of TEM imaging of the AFM tips with the analysis of the load-unload stiffness curves gave us a detailed insight into their mechanical behavior under load conditions. We were able to identify the limits for the elastic interactions, as well as the hallmarks for phase transformation and dislocation formation and movement. The comparison of the physical dimensions of the AFM tips, geometry parameters determined from the values of the contact stiffness, and the information on the crystalline state of the tips allowed us a better understanding of the nanoscale contact.