Recent progress in nanotechnology has enabled to design the advanced functional micro-/nanostructures utilizing the unique properties of ultrathin films. To ensure these structures can reach the expected functionality, it is necessary to know the density, generated internal stress and the material properties of prepared films. Since these films have thicknesses of several tens of nm, their material properties, including density, significantly deviate from the known bulk values. As such, determination of ultrathin film material properties requires usage of highly sophisticated devices that are often expensive, difficult to operate, and time consuming. Here, we demonstrate the extraordinary capability of a microcantilever commonly used in a conventional atomic force microscope to simultaneously measure multiple material properties and internal stress of ultrathin films. This procedure is based on detecting changes in the static deflection, flexural and torsional resonant frequencies, and the corresponding quality factors of the microcantilever vibrating in air before and after film deposition. In contrast to a microcantilever in vacuum, where the quality factor depends on the combination of multiple different mechanical energy losses, in air the quality factor is dominated just by known air damping, which can be precisely controlled by changing the air pressure. Easily accessible expressions required to calculate the ultrathin film density, the Poisson’s ratio, and the Young’s and shear moduli from measured changes in the microcantilever resonant frequencies, and quality factors are derived. We also show that the impact of uncertainties on determined material properties is only minor. The validity and potential of the present procedure in material testing is demonstrated by (i) extracting the Young’s modulus of atomic-layer-deposited TiO2
films coated on a SU-8 microcantilever from observed changes in frequency response and without requirement of knowing the film density, and (ii) comparing the shear modulus and density of Si3
films coated on the silicon microcantilever obtained numerically and by present method.
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