Failure mechanisms and electromechanical coupling in semiconducting nanowires

HD Espinosa and R Agrawal and B Peng and RA Bernal, ICEM 14: 14TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON EXPERIMENTAL MECHANICS, VOL 6, 6, 40010 (2010).

DOI: 10.1051/epjconf/20100640010

One dimensional nanostructures, like nanowires and nanotubes, are increasingly being researched for the development of next generation devices like logic gates, transistors, and solar cells. In particular, semiconducting nanowires with a non-symmetric wurtzitic crystal structure, such as zinc oxide (ZnO) and gallium nitride (GaN), have drawn immense research interests due to their electromechanical coupling. The designing of the future nanowire-based devices requires component-level characterization of individual nanowires. In this paper, we present a unique experimental set-up to characterize the mechanical and electromechanical behaviour of individual nanowires. Using this set- up and complementary atomistic simulations, mechanical properties of ZnO nanowires and electromechanical properties of GaN nanowires were investigated. In ZnO nanowires, elastic modulus was found to depend on nanowire diameter decreasing from 190 GPa to 140 GPa as the wire diameter increased from 5 nm to 80 nm. Inconsistent failure mechanisms were observed in ZnO nanowires. Experiments revealed a brittle fracture, whereas simulations using a pairwise potential predicted a phase transformation prior to failure. This inconsistency is addressed in detail from an experimental as well as computational perspective. Lastly, in addition to mechanical properties, preliminary results on the electromechanical properties of gallium nitride nanowires are also reported. Initial investigations reveal that the piezoresistive and piezoelectric behaviour of nanowires is different from bulk gallium nitride.

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