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New Type of Fatigue Discovered in Silicon 108

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have discovered a phenomenon long thought not to exist. They have demonstrated a mechanical fatigue process that eventually leads to cracks and breakdown in bulk silicon crystals. Silicon — the backbone of the semiconductor industry — has long been believed to be immune to fatigue from cyclic stresses because of the nature of its crystal structure and chemical bonds. However, NIST examination of the silicon used in microscopic systems that incorporate tiny gears, vibrating reeds and other mechanical features reveals stress-induced cracks that can lead to failure. This has important implications for the design of new silicon-based micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) devices that have been proposed for a wide variety of uses. The article abstract is available from Applied Physics Letters."

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