Original Paper

Tribology Letters

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 233-238

First online:

Characterization of Microscale Wear in a Polysilicon-Based MEMS Device Using AFM and PEEM–NEXAFS Spectromicroscopy

  • D. S. GriersonAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison Email author 
  • , A. R. KonicekAffiliated withDepartment of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania
  • , G. E. WabiszewskiAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania
  • , A. V. SumantAffiliated withCenter for Nanoscale Materials, Argonne National Laboratories
  • , M. P. de BoerAffiliated withMEMS Devices and Reliability Physics Department, Sandia National Laboratories
  • , A. D. CorwinAffiliated withMEMS Science and Technology Department, Sandia National Laboratories
  • , R. W. CarpickAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania

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Mechanisms of microscale wear in silicon-based microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are elucidated by studying a polysilicon nanotractor, a device specifically designed to conduct friction and wear tests under controlled conditions. Photoelectron emission microscopy (PEEM) was combined with near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy (AFM) to quantitatively probe chemical changes and structural modification, respectively, in the wear track of the nanotractor. The ability of PEEM–NEXAFS to spatially map chemical variations in the near-surface region of samples at high lateral spatial resolution is unparalleled and therefore ideally suited for this study. The results show that it is possible to detect microscopic chemical changes using PEEM–NEXAFS, specifically, oxidation at the sliding interface of a MEMS device. We observe that wear induces oxidation of the polysilicon at the immediate contact interface, and the spectra are consistent with those from amorphous SiO2. The oxidation is correlated with gouging and debris build-up in the wear track, as measured by AFM and scanning electron microscopy (SEM).


Microscale wear Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) Nanotractor Photoelectron emission microscopy (PEEM) Atomic force microscopy (AFM)