Stress-driven morphological instability and catastrophic failure of microdevices

Paolo Decuzzi, Giuseppe P. Demelio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In microdevices, the competition between surface energy and elastic energy could lead at the phenomenon known as stress-driven morphological instability (MI), causing an increase of surface roughness with time. Several different mass transport mechanisms can trigger such a morphological alteration and operate simultaneously: surface and bulk diffusion, evaporation and condensation, chemical reactions. Unstable solids could eventually evolve towards crack-like surfaces thus altering mechanical, electrical and optical properties of the devices or even leading to catastrophic failures by supercritical crack propagation. In this work, a more general kinetic law is employed to estimate the onset of MI, considering the effect of the stress field on the atomic mobility. A more intuitive and straightforward approach is used to determine the stability conditions, where the rate of atomic mass motion is introduced as a stability parameter. The critical loads and wavelengths for the onset of MI, determined as a function of material parameters a and b, are compared with the limiting conditions for the supercritical crack propagation (SC) of a crack-like surface in order to asses if and under which situations catastrophic failures by SC can be observed. Two practical cases are investigated: fixed wavelength (Case I) and arbitrary rough surface with a fixed remote load (Case II). In Case I, absolute and relative threshold loads are found below which MI could never occur and a transitional wavelength over which MI would always lead to SC is introduced. In Case II, it is shown that dominant perturbation for MI would always lead to SC given enough time for the surface to evolve towards a crack-like profile. The influence of the material properties a and b on the critical parameters is also addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-745
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Solids and Structures
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2003


  • Failure
  • Instability
  • Propagation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials


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