Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Materials Engineering


Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Carol Handwerker

Committee Chair

Carol Handwerker

Committee Member 1

David Bahr

Committee Member 2

Eric Kvam


Microstructure evolution in metal thin films for use in microelectronic devices was studied due to the formation of defects such as whiskers and hillocks that may cause problems in electrical circuits. Thin film stress relaxation can occur through a variety of processes. Understanding such mechanisms and the conditions under which certain mechanism dominate can potentially lead to the improved control of thin film stability. Studies of the 3D microstructural changes in Au thin films on silicon and other substrates with different thermal expansion coefficients aid us in understanding thin film relaxation phenomena such as hillock/whisker formation. Techniques such as in-situ scanning electron microscopy (SEM) heating and cooling experiments, electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD), focus ion beam (FIB) cross sections and atomic force microscopy (AFM) enabled us to quantify the kinetic relationships between relaxation mechanisms and local morphological changes.