Open Access

Mechanical Flexibility and Electrical Reliability of ZnO-Al Thin Films on Polymer Substrates Under Different External Deformation


Aluminum-doped zinc oxide (AZO) films have emerged as promising transparent electrodes for various optoelectronic applications due to their superior transparency, electrical conductivity, and cost-effectiveness compared to indium tin oxide (ITO). Despite their widespread use, investigations into the electromechanical properties of AZO films, especially under various mechanical deformations, remain limited. This study employs RF magnetron sputtering to deposit AZO films on polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) substrates and explores their mechanical behavior through uniaxial tensile fragmentation and bending tests, coupled with in-situ optical microscopy. Changes in electrical resistance of AZO films were monitored in situ during deformation. Fatigue behavior was examined to further understand mechanical failure, and SEM was used for surface characterization. A critical strain of about 3.1 percent was detected during uniaxial tensile testing, marking the onset of cracks in AZO-coated PEN. In contrast to thicker films, thinner films demonstrated improved stretchability beyond the initiation of crack onset strain. Tension and compression bending tests revealed that the material has excellent bendability, as shown by its critical radii of 5.4 mm and 3.9 mm, respectively. The bending reliability of AZO films under compression was found to be superior than that under tension.

Bending fatigue experiments demonstrated that AZO films could withstand cyclic stress without experiencing no ticeable cracks after 100 cycles and with very minor resistance change. This study contributes to the creation of more reliable and optimized flexible optoelectronic devices by giving substantial quantitative data on the performance of AZO films when exposed to mechanical stress.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Materials Sciences, Functional and Smart Materials