Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Alex A. Volinsky, Ph.D.


Nanoindentation, Hardness, Elastic modulus, Fracture toughness, Hertzian contact theory


There is a technological need for hard thin films with high elastic modulus. Silicon Carbide (SiC) fulfills such requirements with a variety of applications in high temperature and MEMS devices. A detailed study of SiC thin films mechanical properties was performed by means of nanoindentation. The report is on the comparative studies of the mechanical properties of epitaxially grown cubic (3C) single crystalline and polycrystalline SiC thin films on Si substrates. The thickness of both the Single and polycrystalline SiC samples were around 1-2 µm. Under indentation loads below 500 µ-Newton both films exhibit Elastic contact without plastic deformation. Based on the nanoindentation results polycrystalline SiC thin films have an elastic modulus and hardness of 422 plus or minus 16 GPa and 32.69 plus or minus 3.218 GPa respectively, while single crystalline SiC films elastic modulus and hardness of 410 plus or minus 3.18 Gpa and 30 plus or minus 2.8 Gpa respectively. Fracture toughness experiments were also carried out using the nanoindentation technique and values were measured to be 1.48 plus or minus 0.6 GPa for polycrystalline SiC and 1.58 plus or minus 0.5 GPa for single crystal SiC, respectively. These results show that both polycrystalline SiC thin films and single crystal SiC more or less have similar properties. Hence both single crystal and polycrystalline SiC thin films have the capability of becoming strong contenders for MEMS applications, as well as hard and protective coatings for cutting tools and coatings for MEMS devices.