Nanomechanical Properties and Buckling Instability of Plasma Induced Damaged Layer on Polystyrene

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In this thesis we report on an investigation of an elastic buckling instability as a driving force for the roughening of polystyrene, a model resist, during Ar+ plasma etching. Polystyrene films etched by pure Ar+ plasma with different ion energies were characterized using both atomic force microscopy topography and force curve measurements. By using height-height correlation function in analyzing the AFM measured topography images, we find that surface corrugation of etched polystyrene film surfaces all display a dominant wrinkle wavelength (ë), which is a function of ion energy. Next, we characterized the mechanical properties of these samples using AFM force curve measurements in an controlled ambient environment. We analyzed the measured force curves using a systematic algorithm based on statistical fitting procedures, and taking into account the adhesive interaction, in order to determine the effective elastic modulus of the films. We find that the effective elastic modulus (EBL) of the etched samples increases monotonically with increasing ion energy, but the changes are rather subtle as compared to the elastic modulus (EPS) of the unetched one.

 In order to test the validity of a buckling instability as the mechanism for surface roughening in our polystyrene-Ar plasma system, the elastic modulus of individual layer (i.e. ion-damaged layer plus unmodified foundation) needs to be determined. We present a determination of the damaged layer elastic modulus (EDL) from the effective elastic modulus of the damaged layer/polystyrene bilayer structure (EBL), based upon a finite element method simulation taking into account the thickness and elastic modulus of the damaged layers. We extract the damaged layer elastic modulus versus etching ion energy initially within the approximation of a spherical tip in contact with a flat sample surface. We next extend our model, by considering a periodic corrugated film surface, with its amplitude and wavelength determined by AFM, to take into account the effect of roughness induced by plasma exposure. The damaged layer elastic modulus extracted from these two approximations gives of quantitative agreement, and thus evidence for the correlation between buckling instability and plasma-induced roughening.