Using thin film stress for nanoscaled sensors


Thin film stress is often seen as an unwanted effect in micro- and nanostructures. Since recent years, we could employ thin film stress as a useful tool to create nanowires. By creating stress at predetermined breaking points, e.g., in microstructured photo resist thin films, cracks occur on the nanoscale in a well defined and reproducible manner [ ]. By using those as a simple mask for thin film deposition, nanowires can be created. More recently this fabrication scheme could be improved by utilizing delamination of the thin film, in order to obtain suitable shadow masks for thin film deposition in vacuum [ ]. Now, these stress based nanowires can be integrated in microelectronic devices and used as field effect transistors or as hydrogen sensors [ ]. For the functional part of the sensor, it was proposed that thin film stress created by hydrogen adsorption in the nanowire is the driving force. In terms of function, thin films can be also applied on free standing nanoscale whiskers or wires to modify their mechanical features or adding additional functionality. As a second example for the utilization of thin film stress, recent experiments on a piezoelectric and magnetostrictive material combination will be presented. These piezoelectric-magnetostrictive nano-composites are potential candidates for novel magnetic field sensors [ ]. In these composites the magnetostriction will be transferred to the piezoelectric component, resulting in a polarization of the piezoelectric material, that can be used as the sensor signal. The results of two different composite layouts will be presented and discussed with a special focus on the comparison between classical macroscopic composites and the novel nanocomposites.
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