Advanced microelectronic interconnection structures will need dielectrics of low permittivity to reduce capacitive delays and crosstalk, but this reduction in permittivity typically necessitates an increase in the porosity of the material, which is frequently accompanied by reduced mechanical reliability. Failure by brittle fracture remains a typical manufacturing and reliability hurdle for this class of materials. Part I of this two-part work explores the instrumented indentation and indentation fracture responses of a variety of organosilicate low-dielectric constant (low-κ) films. Three different chemical varieties of low-κ material were tested. The influence of film thickness on the fracture response is also explored systematically. Correlations are made between instrumented indentation responses and differing modes of fracture. It is demonstrated that the elastic response of the composite film + substrate systems can be simply tied to the fraction of the total indentation strain energy in the film. These results are then used in the companion paper, Part II [D.J. Morris and R.F. Cook, J. Mater. Res.23, 2443 (2008)], to derive and use a fracture mechanics model to measure fracture properties of low-κ films.
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