This study investigates the mechanical and physical properties of low-temperature plasma-enhanced chemical-vapor-deposited silicon nitride thin films, with particular respect to the effect of deposition temperature. The mechanical properties of the films were evaluated by both nanoindentation and microcantilever beam-bending techniques. The cantilever beam specimens were fabricated from silicon nitride thin films deposited on (100) silicon wafer by bulk micromachining. The density of the films was determined from quartz crystal microbalance measurements, as well as from the resonant modes of the cantilever beams, which were mechanically excited using an atomic force microscope. It was found that both the Young's modulus and density of the films were significantly reduced with decreasing deposition temperature. The decrease in Young's modulus is attributed to the decreasing material density. The decrease in density with decreasing deposition temperature is believed to be due to the slower diffusion rates of the deposited species, which retarded the densification of the film during the deposition process. (c) 2005 American Institute of Physics.