The Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid (ICMM) is an institute of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC) (Spanish National Research Council) founded in December 1986, that belongs to the Area of Science and Technology of Materials, one of the eight Areas in which the CSIC divides its research activities.


Our mission is to create new fundamental and applied knowledge in materials of high technological impact, their processing and their transfer to the productive sectors at local, national and European scales (the true value of materials is in their use), the training of new professionals, and the dissemination of the scientific knowledge.

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Exploiting polaritonic chemistry to manipulate molecular structure and dynamics
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Intrinsic Compressive Stress in Polycrystalline Films is Localized at Edges of the Grain Boundaries

Enrique Vasco and Celia Polop

The intrinsic compression that arises in polycrystalline thin films under high atomic mobility conditions has been attributed to the insertion or trapping of adatoms inside grain boundaries. This compression is a consequence of the stress field resulting from imperfections in the solid and causes the thermomechanical fatigue that is estimated to be responsible for 90% of mechanical failures in current devices. We directly measure the local distribution of residual intrinsic stress in polycrystalline thin films on nanometer scales, using a pioneering method based on atomic force microscopy. Our results demonstrate that, at odds with expectations, compression is not generated inside grain boundaries but at the edges of gaps where the boundaries intercept the surface. We describe a model wherein this compressive stress is caused by Mullins-type surface diffusion towards the boundaries, generating a kinetic surface profile different from the mechanical equilibrium profile by the Laplace-Young equation. Where the curvatures of both profiles differ, an intrinsic stress is generated in the form of Laplace pressure. The Srolovitz-type surface diffusion that results from the stress counters the Mullins-type diffusion and stabilizes the kinetic surface profile, giving rise to a steady compression regime. The proposed mechanism of competition between surface diffusions would explain the flux and time dependency of compressive stress in polycrystalline thin films.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 2017

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ICMM-2018 - Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, 3, Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain. Tel: +34 91 334 9000. info@icmm.csic.es