Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology

Superior mechanical properties of dense and porous organic/inorganic hybrid thin films

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The intrinsic mechanical properties of a given material strongly depend upon its chemical nature: the organics tend to be soft, but tough, while the inorganic materials are hard but brittle and are prone to fracture. The later characteristic gets even worse for porous materials and is of major concern in the microelectronics industry as porous organosilicates (mainly inorganic) will constitute the insulating layers in future electronic devices. In this paper, we demonstrate that significantly tougher organosilicate glass thin-films prepared by sol-gel process, can be obtained by introducing carbon bridging units between silicon atoms present in the organosilicate network. A fracture energy value of 15 J/m2 was measured, surprisingly higher than that for dense silicon dioxide (10 J/m2), suggesting mechanical properties that lie somewhere in between those of conventional glasses and organic polymers. We also found that the Young's modulus follows a linear decay when porosity is introduced, a unique property when compared to traditional organosilicates. As a result, crack resistant films were obtained at high levels of porosity, opening potential applications in the fields of low-k materials for future integrated circuits, membranes, sensors, waveguides, fuel cells and micro-fluidic channels. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.