Parallel glide: Unexpected dislocation motion parallel to the substrate in ultrathin copper films

T. J. Balk, G. Dehm, E. Arzt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Although it is well known that thin metal films exhibit mechanical properties very different from those of their bulk counterparts, knowledge of the underlying mechanisms is incomplete. In this study of plasticity in unpassivated Cu thin films, thermal cycling experiments were performed using both wafer curvature equipment and in situ transmission electron microscopy. It was found that the room temperature flow stress increases with decreasing film thickness, but exhibits a plateau for films 400 nm and thinner. It was also observed that a new type of dislocation motion becomes operative in this plateau region. The unexpected glide of dislocations on a (1 1 1) plane parallel to the film/substrate interface, which we have termed parallel glide, completely replaces threading dislocation motion as the dominant mechanism in films 200 nm and thinner. Parallel glide appears to be a consequence of constrained diffusional creep, which involves a diffusive exchange of atoms between the unpassivated film surface and the grain boundaries at high temperatures. This process is reversible during heating versus cooling, and is highly repeatable from one thermal cycle to the next. The observed populations of parallel glide dislocations fully account for the plastic strain measured in wafer curvature experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4471-4485
Number of pages15
JournalActa Materialia
Issue number15
StatePublished - Sep 3 2003


  • Copper
  • Dislocation
  • In situ
  • Thin films
  • Transmission electron microscopy (TEM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Metals and Alloys


Dive into the research topics of 'Parallel glide: Unexpected dislocation motion parallel to the substrate in ultrathin copper films'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this