Reported nearly a decade ago, cyclic fatigue failure in silicon thin films has remained a mystery. Silicon does not display the room-temperature plasticity or extrinsic toughening mechanisms necessary to cause fatigue in either ductile (e.g., metals) or brittle (e.g., ceramics and ordered intermetallics) materials. This letter presents experimental evidence for the cyclic fatigue of silicon via a conceptually different mechanism termed reaction-layer fatigue. Based on mechanical testing, electron microscopy, and self-assembled monolayers, we present direct observation of fatigue-crack initiation in polycrystalline silicon, the mechanism of crack initiation, and a method for altering fatigue damage accumulation. (C) 2002 American Institute of Physics.
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