Bulk-wave and guided-wave photoacoustic evaluation of the mechanical properties of aluminum/silicon nitride double-layer thin films

Feifei Zhang, Sridhar Krishnaswamy*, Carmen M. Lilley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The development of devices made of micro- and nano-structured thin film materials has resulted in the need for advanced measurement techniques to characterize their mechanical properties. Photoacoustic techniques, which use pulsed laser irradiation to nondestructively induce very high frequency ultrasound in a test object via rapid thermal expansion, are suitable for nondestructive and non-contact evaluation of thin films. In this paper, we compare two photoacoustic techniques to characterize the mechanical parameters of edge-supported aluminum and silicon nitride double-layer thin films. The elastic properties and residual stresses in such films affect their mechanical performance. In a first set of experiments, a femtosecond transient pump-probe technique is used to investigate the Young's moduli of the aluminum and silicon nitride layers by launching ultra-high frequency bulk acoustic waves in the films. The measured transient signals are compared with simulated transient thermoelastic signals in multi-layer structures, and the elastic moduli are determined. Independent pump-probe tests on silicon substrate-supported region and unsupported region are in good agreement. In a second set of experiments, dispersion curves of the A0 mode of the Lamb waves that propagate along the unsupported films are measured using a broadband photoacoustic guided-wave method. The residual stresses and flexural rigidities for the same set of double-layer membranes are determined from these dispersion curves. Comparisons of the results obtained by the two photoacoustic techniques are made and discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-76
Number of pages11
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006


  • Materials characterization
  • Photoacoustics
  • Thin films

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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