Thin Films & Coatings

Thin films and coatings are key components for electronic, sensor, aerospace, automotive, optical, and packaging applications. Physical, chemical and mechanical properties of advanced materials often need to be optimized for critical parameters such as abrasion, corrosion resistance, wear, or strength. Important aspects of characterizing thin films and coatings include the film/substrate interface, surface roughness, film thickness, and coating integrity. 

Low-κ thin films on silicon wafers need to be optimized for a low dielectric constant with a minimum mechanical strength. This requires using dynamic nanoindentation to acquire accurate data for Young's modulus and hardness without substrate effects.

Optical profilometry provides non-destructive true coloring imaging in 3D of thin films and coatings. Film thickness, coating integrity and material processing can be evaluated using a 3D optical profiler. Examples include laser processed thin films, solar cells, and trenches in indium tin oxide films on glass.

Advanced materials research and development can be accelerated with a scanning electron microscope (SEM) on-site. Imaging and elemental analysis with SEM characterizes the thin film structure, thickness, and composition. Using a backscattered electron detector (BSD), heavier elements are brighter in the SEM image, inherently providing elemental contrast. Energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) can add stoichiometric information for material characterization.


BSD SEM Image of an SiC Film

BSD SEM image of SiC film from GMSIcourtesy of GMSI


Atomic force microscopy characterizes thin films from nanometers down to the monolayer level. With advanced imaging modes, material properties can be mapped for the surface of a thin film or coating. For very thin films in cross-section, film thickness can also be measured.


Characterize Mechanical Properties of Thin Films for Microelectronics
Characterize Mechanical Properties of Thin Films for Microelectronics

Mechanical strength for low-k films without substrate effects

Evaluate Processing of Thin Films
Evaluate Processing of Thin Films

Measure effectiveness of laser processing with optical profilometry

Accelerate Thin Film Development
Accelerate Thin Film Development

Structure-property-processing optimization of thin films with SEM and EDS