Indentation fracture of gallium arsenide

The scribe and break technique (or dicing) is a widely employed method in the industry of semiconductors to separate infrared laser diodes made from gallium arsenide (GaAs). The scribing step allows to create a precursor crack which is then propagated during the breaking step, along preferential {110} cleavage planes of GaAs. The main drawback of the scribing process is that it generates a lot of undesirable cracks and particles that degrade the performances of devices. In this dissertation, we have investigated the indentation process as a possible way to replace the scribing operation. For that purpose, we have investigated the morphology of the crack field and the cracking sequence as a function of the indenter geometry (shape, apex angle) and experimental conditions (maximal load, loading rate). Such investigations have been made with the help of a new tool: the in-situ SEM instrumented indentation which allows us to establish the cracking sequence and to correlate direct observations with the load-displacement histories. A new experimental technique has also been developed: cleavage cross-sectioning techniques allow us to determine the morphology of the crack field beneath the surface. The second research axis was focused on the interaction between deformation mechanisms and crack initiation. These investigations have been conducted with the help of Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and cathodoluminescence. In the first part of the dissertation, we have shown that acute wedge indenters with an included angle of 60° promote the formation of a well defined half-penny crack, the nucleation of which is affected by load rate and indenter radius. The relation between the final half-penny crack size and the maximum indentation load was made with the help of a fracture mechanics model. The crack field has been compared for several indenter shape including conical (60° and 120° apex angles), cube corner and Vickers indenters. In the second part of this dissertation we have determined that the indenter apex angle influences the slip systems that are activated and the nature of dislocations that are found under the indenter. In particular, we have shown that below 60° wedge indenters, mainly diverging slip systems are activated whereas under obtuse wedge indenters, mainly converging slip systems are activated. The converging pattern predominant under obtuse indenters is correlated with a delayed half-penny crack formation and is so interpreted as a plastic shielding phenomenon. Some experiments have been performed on commercial devices under production conditions. Although some adjustments are needed to reduce the chipping-out effect that occurs at the indenter extremities, the results are encouraging.

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