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Capillary instabilities in thin films

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Very thin films, less than 100 nm-thick, are used in a variety of applications, including as catalysts and for thin film reactions to form patterned silicides in electronic devices. Because of their high surface to volume ratio, these very thin films are subject to cap-illary instability and can agglomerate well below their melting temperatures. In order to develop a general understanding of agglomeration in very thin films, we have studied initially continuous and patterned films of gold on fused silica substrates. Two in situ techniques were used to monitor agglomeration: 1) heating and video recording in a transmission electron microscope, and 2) measurement of the intensity of laser light transmitted through a sample heated in a furnace. Electron microscopy allowed inves-tigation of the role of the microstructure of the Au film and analysis of light transmis-sion during heating allowed determination of temperature-dependent and film-thick-ness-dependent agglomeration rates. These results will be described along with models for the agglomeration process.

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Jiran, E., Thompson, C.V. Capillary instabilities in thin films. J. Electron. Mater. 19, 1153–1160 (1990).

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